Category Archives: Global Affairs

UN Climate Action Summit: World Forges Ahead with Climate Action – Without Trump But Not Without States United

At the UN Climate Action Summit, Governor Janet Mills (center) challenged leaders of the world to take action against climate change, saying the State of Maine will do its part and announcing that she has signed an Executive Order committing the state to carbon neutrality by 2045. Spiting Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, 25 states have formed the US Climate Alliance © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

There was the sense at the United Nations Climate Action Summit that took place September 23, that the Trump Administration – but not the United States – is irrelevant to the crusade to mitigate the most devastating impacts of climate change. Indeed, the rest of the world, American states, localities and businesses, is forging full steam ahead to prevent the earth from warming more than 1.5 degrees Celsius – and all the devastation that would result – within the next 12 years.

“We know why tackling climate change is important”, said Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed before the Climate Action Summit began. “The devastation wreaked by Dorian on the Bahamas, what the Secretary-General called a Category Hell hurricane, is a glimpse into one aspect of a future powered by climate change – a future with super storms that grow in intensity and frequency, where those countries with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, continue to feel the worst impacts of the planet’s rising temperatures.”

UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed: “The summit will present practical and new measures, speed transition from coal to clean energy, cut pollution harming health, protect nature, unlock the potential of nature to deliver on climate, create cleaner greener waste, speed up transition from grey to green economies, mitigate impacts of climate change, leave no one behind, transition must be ramped up now.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com  

“The summit will present practical and new measures, speed transition from coal to clean energy, cut pollution harming health, protect nature, unlock the potential of nature to deliver on climate, create cleaner greener waste, speed up transition from grey to green economies, mitigate impacts of climate change, leave no one behind, transition must be ramped up now,” she said at a press briefing before the summit.

The Climate Action Summit was designed to showcase only the boldest, transformative actions – specifics, not hyperbole or speechifying.  

“We will see what climate leadership looks like – progress toward carbon neutral future.”

Trump snubbed the summit, choosing instead to host a Religious Freedom Forum, and highlighted America’s military might but did not mention climate change once, in his address to the General Assembly. But just about every other leader did refer to the critical need and their commitment to climate action in their speech.

King Hussein of Jordan tells the UN General Assembly, What will our world become if we do not work together for a healthy and safe climate. We already know the dangers of climate change – how can we excuse [inaction]” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com  

“Can we afford to ignore the crisis of extinction, or will we do the right thing, support energies and talents of all the world’s youth and drive all the economies forward to fair and inclusive society?” Abdullah II bin AlHussein, King of Jordan, declared. “What will our world become if we do not work together for a healthy and safe climate. We already know the dangers of climate change – how can we excuse [inaction]”

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, president of Croatia, declared, “Climate change- rising sea levels – is the greatest threat. Without protection of waters and marine life, there will be nothing to leave.”

Russia, one of the few holdouts and one of the world’s largest carbon emitters with an economy largely based on fossil fuel extraction and export, used the occasion to officially adopt the Paris Climate Agreement. The document signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev says Russia will now “allocate financial resources… to developing countries for prevention and adaptation to climate change. The threat of climate change is (the) destruction of the ecological balance, increased risks for successful development of key industries… and most importantly, threat to safety of people living on permafrost and increase of natural disasters.”

Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, president of Croatia, tells the General Assembly, “Climate change- rising sea levels – is the greatest threat. Without protection of waters and marine life, there will be nothing to leave.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com  

Governor Janet Mills of Maine challenged leaders of the world to take action against climate change, saying the State of Maine will do its part and announcing that she has signed an Executive Order committing the state to carbon neutrality by 2045.

Separately, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced New York State is pursuing partnerships with Ireland and Denmark that will lead to improved electric infrastructure and the advancement of more renewable energy sources, including offshore wind. The agreements were announced during Climate Week and will advance both New York’s nation-leading plan to combat climate change and the Governor’s Green New Deal agenda. This summer, Governor Cuomo signed the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which mandates New York’s power be 100 percent clean and carbon-free by 2040. New York is one of 25 states including California that have formed the US Climate Alliance (USclimatealliance.org)  to uphold the Paris Agreement. – collectively representing over 50% of the US population and  60% of the United States’ GDP.

Mohammed acknowledged that the transition “is not one-size fits all – in some countries, renewable energy is already cheaper than coal; others need funding options. It’s not enough that we stop funding coal and actively move to making renewable possible –there is tension there. We must be realistic – you can’t click fingers and create a renewable grid overnight but we also determined there are over 100 coal plants in pipeline and emissions are still rising – that pathway is a serious threat to human survival.”

Informed by the perspectives of more than 130 Governments, a newly issued report, The Heat is On – Taking Stock of Global Climate Ambition, reveals that business as usual, is not good enough and requires more mitigation, adaptation and finance – all which must be done quickly.

 “When I look back on this Climate Action Summit, I want us to see it as a sling shot – that helped to change our common trajectory towards sustainability”, said Ms. Mohammed, building trust “between this generation of adults and the next – between our children and ourselves – that we are all working together to our fullest potential to tackle the climate emergency”.

She recapped that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report stressed the need to ensure that “the global temperature rise does not go beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius” through “cutting emissions by 45 per cent by 2030”, warning that “we have very little time to take the decisions needed to get there”.

Those decisions should be set out in each country’s Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) on climate change, which she called “the cornerstone of the Paris Agreement”.

“The world’s poorest 1 billion, we are least responsible for climate crisis – emitting less than 1% of global emissions,  yet, our small gross national incomes and limited resources means we suffer the most,” said Sonam P. Wangdi, Secretary of the National Environment Commission, Bhutan.

The United States, with only 5% of the population is responsible for 25% of carbon emissions, and the present administration, which hides behind science denial in order to preserve the status quo of their economic systems, will have a huge impact on whether the efforts made by 190 countries succeed in preserving the planet. But though the government was a no-show at the Climate Action Summit, states, localities and business interests were on hand, offering their commitments so that the United States will achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement led by Obama and rejected by Trump.

Indeed, it was just as if the world has moved on, rendering the United States irrelevant. The thought of holding the US accountable for reparations when an island nation like the Bahamas is devastated by Hurricane Dorian, was discounted. “Who would enforce a decision?” said Wilfred P. Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Belize, a statement made from the experience of Trinidad & Tobago which won a judgment against the US in the World Trade Organization that has yet to be paid.

Small Island Developing States are stepping up and striking back.

Wilfred P. Elrington, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Belize, recalled the devastation he went through as a boy of 4 when a category 4 hurricane hit his village. “From one moment being in a safe, secure structure or building, the next to be completely out in environment with absolutely nothing – you have absolutely nothing.”  © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com  

“The recent activity of Dorian in Bahamas – devastated that island, and unless you really have experience this kind of devastation it is hard to appreciate how difficult, how absolutely destructive it is,” said Elrington, recalling his own terror at the age of 4 years old when a Category 4 hurricane hit. “From one moment being in a safe, secure structure or building, the next to be completely out in environment with absolutely nothing – you have absolutely nothing – no clothes, medicine, food, completely at the mercy of God. We think of the damage to human beings and the destruction, but equally tragic is the destruction done to floral and fauna – exceedingly depressing to see the entire landscape devastated and and of course, does not come back quickly.”

Apart from saving habitats, climate mitigation and adaptation has the added benefit of addressing poverty and inequality, in part perpetuated by the cost – and reliance –on fossil fuels as the basis for an economy. Shifting to clean, renewable like solar, wind, water, geothermal, lowers the expenditure and increases the independence from concentrated utility companies. Eliminating fossil fuels also reduces pollution and improves health.

But with worldwide pressure – by citizens and consumers – the private sector is being forced to take action as well.  Sixteen countries are phasing out gasoline-powered cars over the next several years, rendering US-manufactured cars unexportable, regardless of how Trump attempts to overturn California’s call for higher fuel efficiency standards and lower emissions.

Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment

Just announced, “first of its kind,” Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment “will transform mainstream infrastructure investment and drive a  permanent shift toward climate resilient economy for all countries, but especially for low and mid income countries which bear the brunt,” said John Haley, CEO, Willis Towers Watson, one of the world’s largest insurance companies. One of the ways it will change the way money is invested in business ventures and infrastructure is by creating new data analytics that incorporate the cost-benefit of climate adaptation, mitigation and resiliency into the model. “Rapid advancement in data analytics, coupled in momentum of regulatory initiatives and growing pressure from global society is what allows this initiative to be as ambitious as it is.”

“Pricing the risks posed by climate change will create opportunities to build a network of resilient infrastructure in high, medium and low-income countries, enabling us to better prevent future human and financial disasters,” says John Haley, CEO, Willis Towers Watson, introducing a newly formed Coalition for Climate Resilient Investment © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com  

He said, “I come from the world of insurance. We work on a lot of analytical tools to price the effect of climate disasters. We will take those kind of analytical tools and build them into understanding what kind of investments we should make in infrastructure – measure the impacts of climate on infrastructure everywhere in the world – more important in vulnerable communities but everywhere in the world [including US, where former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has been saying the very thing in pushing for a carbon tax].

“Pricing the risks posed by climate change will create opportunities to build a network of resilient infrastructure in high, medium and low-income countries, enabling us to better prevent future human and financial disasters.”

The coalition will develop case studies to build the business case, and identify the critical enabling environments, for climate resilient infrastructure investment. 

By the end of 2020, analytical tools including a physical risk pricing framework and methodology to prioritize national resilient investment needs, will be developed, alongside a range of instruments to prevent capital flight from vulnerable regions.

Biggest Names in Video Game Industry Commit to Climate Action

Jim Ryan, President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment and Phil Spencer, executive vice president of gaming at Microsoft are among the 21 gaming companies that have joined the Playing for the Planet Alliance, vowing to reduce carbon emissions and spark awareness and engagement in climate action among their collective 970 million gamers © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com  

And, in a major mind-blowing commitment, 21 of the biggest names in the video games industry, with a combined audience of 970 million players, formally committed to harness the power of their platforms to take action in response to the climate crisis. Combined, these commitments will result in a 30 million ton reduction of CO2 emissions by 2030, will see millions of trees planted, new “green nudges” in game design and improvements to energy management, packaging, and device recycling. Equally significantly, under the banner of Playing for the Planet Alliance, many will incorporate sustainability and climate action into the games, themselves, letting gamers, for example, toy with building sustainable societies.

These voluntary commitments were announced during the UN Climate Action Summit. CEOs from 14 platforms and games makers, including Sony Interactive Entertainment, Microsoft, Google Stadia, Rovio, Supercell, Sybo, Ubisoft and WildWorks, were present to showcase their commitments. The Alliance intends to support companies in sharing learning and monitoring progress on the environmental agenda.

A full list of the announcements and commitments made at the Climate Summit can be found at www.un.org/climatechange

See also:

Nations, Private Sector Pledge Commitments to Climate Action at UN Summit

Youth Climate Activist Greta Thunberg to UN Climate Summit: ‘If You Choose to Fail Us, I Say We Will Never Forgive You’

Climate Activist Greta Thunberg Tells 250,000 at NYC Climate Strike: ‘We demand a safe future’

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Pakistan PM Warns of Massacre in Kashmir, Confrontation with India, Demands UN Act: ‘This is as Bad as it gets’

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, at a press briefing at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, September 24, entreated the Security Council to end India’s lockdown of Kashmir. “This is as bad as it gets.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com  

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, at a press briefing at the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, September 24, gave a chilling depiction of prospects for Kashmir, whose 8 million inhabitants are under virtual house arrest by India. He noted multiple times that these are two nuclear powers being brought to the brink over the disputed territory, and charged the “rich countries” with ignoring the possibility of what he called a “massacre” or ethnic-cleansing by India because of their craven interest in wooing India’s market of 1 billion people. He reminded the United Nations that it was their Security Council resolution that gave Kashmir their right of self-determination.

“The main reason I came to the UN General Assembly was to highlight highlight what is going on in Kashmir. The world would not know the oppression going on, nor would the world understand that this is just the beginning, it will get worse, and there is a potential that two nuclear armed countries will come face to face at some stage.”

“For 50 days, the Kashmiri people have been locked down –a news black out.” He said there have been mass arrests, “the entire leadership of Kashmir, even leaders who were pro-India, even those Kashmiri leaders are now in jail somewhere in India.

“This is unprecedented – 8 million people in open jail is unprecedented in this day and age.”

“And this nonsense that this is part of India so the world should stay out – just to remind, there are 11 UN Security Council resolutions that recognize Kashmir as disputed territory, which gave the right of Kashmir people of self-determination through plebiscite to decide their destiny – for 70 years this plebiscite never took place, then unilaterally [the Modi] government has annexed Kashmir – revoked article 370.”

But, he said, he fears what is next: that the Modi government will change the demography of Kashmir. “Changing the demography of an occupied piece of land is against the 4th Geneva Convention –it is considered a war crime.”

He categorically blamed India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a racist nationalist policy.

 “My second biggest worry is what happens once the curfew lifted – we fear with 900,000 soldiers there, there will be massacre. I am trying to tell the world community to act.

“Another fear is that, whatever is happening in Kashmir, India will blame Pakistan.

“Unfortunately India today is governed by a racist, a Hindu supremacist, a party that was banned in India two or three times as a terrorist organization. Unfortunately, India has been this past 6 years governed by an extremist party that believes in ethnic cleansing.

“They don’t consider Muslims or Christians equal citizens, don’t believe in Nehru-Gandhi secular society. India has changed in 6 years.

“I am alarmed and I think the world leaders need to know. I’ve spoken to world leaders – Trump, Boris Johnson – and by telephone spoke to Merkel, Macron, Muslim leaders. This is the time for the world to act before this goes too far.

“If ever the Security Council had to act, it’s now, for two reasons: the people of Kashmir are suffering simply because the Security Council couldn’t implement its own decision for Kashmir’s right of self-determination.

“And second, this has the potential of the unthinkable: two nuclear armed countries face to face. Surely the Security Council came into being to stop this. This is as bad as it gets.

“I would not have come out of Pakistan, just coming out of really difficult economic situation…I am alarmed. A sane mind can’t think of a nuclear war, no sane mind can think of it. We grew up after the Cuban crisis, all of us knew what cold war was  because other war unimaginable,. But what you have in India now – this is ideology, racist ideology which believes in supremacy of Hindu race. How do you reason with them, with what they’ve done in Kashmir – would you expect a civilized society to do what they have done. I worry as this goes on – that’s why the UN must act.”

“This is the first time since the Cuban crisis that two nuclear armed countries will come face to face. What we fear are already the statements – ‘terrorists lined up on border of Kashmir waiting to go in’. What benefit would Pakistan have to send terrorists when 900,000 security forces – only more oppression on people of Kashmir – what would be achieved except that Pakistan would be blamed and more oppression of people of Kashmir.

Khan will make Kashmir the focus of his General Assembly address on Friday.

“If 8 million Europeans, or Jews, or Americans – forget Americans – were put under siege for 50 days ,would reaction have been same? They make statements but there is no pressure on Modi to lift the siege so we will keep mounting the pressure. I will tell the UN that if a massacre, I mean what are 900,000 troops doing there? 900,000 troops are not to fight terrorists, they are to control, intimidate, subjugate a population – the entire Muslim population – this is why this will have repercussions far beyond Kashmir – 1.3 billion Muslims are watching.

“Where is the world community, where are laws? The UN Security Council gave them right of self-determination – this will have repercussions, will create radicalization. It will get worse. I’m flagging it now, because this is just the beginning. Once the curfew lifted, God knows what will happen- Kashmir lost 100,000 people in 30 years. Do they think because India revoked Article 370, that Kashmiris will just accept? There is every likelihood of a massacre and the world community will be responsible.”

“The UN has a responsibility – it is a UN Security Council resolution that gave Kashmiris their right of self-determination – but what happening now- responsibility lies on them, too. – big countries, powerful countries, I urge them to look beyond big markets. If this thing goes wrong, the effects will go way beyond b orders of subcontinent – this obsession with big markets and trade, this is serious, and I again repeat, we don’t know what will happen after curfew lifted. I fear that with 900,000 troops, will be massacre.”

Very possibly, too, Prime Minister Khan sees an opportunity, after years in which the Kashmiris may have become complacent about choosing between India and Pakistan. As he said, many Kashmiri leaders were pro-India, but after this, he would expect Kashmiris to vote to ally with Pakistan.

“I know why the response is lukewarm and why Modi is not (pressured)- People look at it as market of 1.2 billion people – sadly, this is what is happening. Material comes over the human – because it’s a big market.

“ My simple message to all those looking at a big market, is this can go very wrong… once conflict starts between two nuclear armed countries – it would go beyond us, madness. Things will only deteriorate. What will happen when lift the curfew? What do they think the Kashmiris, after they have treated them, will they quietly accept India taking over Kashmir? I fear there will be blood bath, and that’s when things deteriorate very rapidly.”

During the press briefing, Khan also said that he was asked to play a role to deescalate the situation between the US and Iran, and that US President Donald Trump called on him to help broker the deal with the Taliban and the United States that was to have enabled the American troops to leave Afghanistan, before learning by tweet that the meeting at which the deal would have been signed was canceled. He said he still had hopes that the deal could be resurrected, and once a deal was set between the US and the Taliban, then the Taliban and Afghan government could make their own deal.

Before the Iranian attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil facility, “Trump asked if we could deescalate the situation and maybe come up with another deal [to replace the Nuclear deal]. I did convey this, and trying out best, can’t reveal more than that.

“Yes, I am mediating between the United States and Iran,” Khan acknowledged. “I spoke to [Iran President] Rouhani yesterday, after the meeting with Trump – but can’t say more, except we are trying to mediate.

About Afghanistan, he said, “I spoke to Trump –I am trying to get the talks restarted between Taliban and Americans.

“On a tweet we found out the deal was off. It’s sad because that was close and once the deal was made, progress would have been made. There is no military solution – as I have been saying a long time – once Afghans get together, they will find a solution. If the government sits down with the Taliban, they will find solution.”

As for the threat to the global supply of oil if the situation with Iran and the Mideast escalates, he said, “It would be a tragedy not just for Pakistan but all developing countries, with their budgets affected if war takes place and oil prices shoot up .It will cause much more poverty.”

Kashmir for 30 years, freedom of movement has grown – today, act of shutting people in homes for 50 years has alienated entire spectrum of Kashmiri public – there were times when Kashmiris were pro-india, today no one would be ever get a vote pro-India in Kashmir. What the India government has done is to tell Kashmiris they are not equal human beings. They are not thinking through what happens after siege is lifted.

“The only reason people of Kashmir are being subjected to this is because they are Muslims. If Muslim countries don’t take a stand –because of trade – that’s what leads to radicalization, when governments don’t act on wishes of people and people see injustice.”

He said that in his meeting with Trump, “I apprised him of the gravity of the situation – intelligent human beings think ahead – have to hope for best but prepare for worst – worst scenario is unthinkable – normal human beings don’t think of that….

“You could do anything as long as you brand people ‘Islamic terrorists.’ That’s what Modi is doing –and  hoping to get away with it. That’s why we are telling civilized world, Send your observers, if India has nothing to worry about. Their excuse for putting people under curfew, shutting them in houses, their excuse is to ‘develop’ Kashmir, for ‘prosperity of Kashmir’ – this is the Modi position. It is important for us to tell the world so at least everyone knows. I have apprised all the world leaders.

“What Modi has done is box himself into a blind alley. There is nowhere to go except massacre of people of Kashmir when the curfew is lifted, there is no other way to go. The people of Kashmir for 30 years have been fighting for independence – 100,000 lost their lives, lost their fear of death. When 8 million lose fear of dying and freedom becomes much more important than living a life of slavery, I don’t think he will be able to stop it. I think momentum will gain pace and I know where will eventually lead: freedom for people of Kashmir.

“But for some reason countries put economic interest ahead of human beings – it is the same with climate change – because they don’t want to lose growth rate, they don’t accept the impending change that climate change brings to the  world.”

Money, he said, is at the root of the evil, and the corruption. “Money laundering, from the developing world into rich countries through corruption, the ruling elites of developing world taking money out. This is plunder of poor countries. Poor countries are getting poorer, rich getting richer and criminals who plunder have an easy way of parking money, buying flats in London. Richer countries should have stronger money laundering laws. If we can identify that money is stolen, it should be given back. The problem is that the existing laws are so complicated. If the rich countries want, they can easily tighten laws to deter criminals in third world to take money out.”

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Biden attacks Trump as G7 Opens: ‘Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure’

Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, stated Trump’s “incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

As Donald Trump departed the White House to attend the G7 after a day in which he attacked Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell as a “worse enemy” than China’s Chairman Xi and ordered US companies to leave China, a day in which the Dow plummeted 600 points, a day after he referred to himself as the “Chosen One” as he looked to the heavens and demanded that Russia be invited back into the G8, Vice President Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, issued this statement:

“This week, in the lead-up to the G7 in France, President Trump has continued his irrational and self-defeating campaign to make America less secure and less respected in the world.  He has insulted our closest partners and denigrated one of our most capable allies, Denmark—a country that has repeatedly fought and sacrificed alongside our troops. He issued yet another attack on NATO, reiterating his belief that NATO is an American-run protection racket where our allies better pay up, or else. And he advocated for Russia’s return to the G7, despite Vladimir Putin’s long and growing record of aggressive behavior and provocations against the United States and our allies in Europe. 

“Trump’s actions and words are not just embarrassing—they are making the American people less safe. Every incident further isolates us on the global stage, reinforcing that his version of “America First” means America alone. For the first time in its history, the G7 will not even issue a joint communique, because President Trump refuses to cooperate with our partners on the pressing issues of our time, including climate change, China’s predatory trade practices, Russian attacks on western democracies, and nuclear proliferation. No country, even one as powerful as ours, can go it alone against 21st century challenges that respect no borders and cannot be contained by walls.

“NATO, the most powerful alliance in history, is the bulwark of America’s national security and the free world’s first line of defense. It’s how we amplify our own strength, maintain our presence around the globe, and magnify our impact – while sharing the burden among willing partners. NATO is an alliance built first and foremost on shared democratic values, which makes it more durable and more reliable than partnerships built on coercion or cash. But it is not indestructible, and Trump has taken a battering ram to our most important strategic alliance.

“More than two-and-a-half years into his presidency, the pattern of Trump’s conduct and character is clear. He never misses a chance to lavish praise on dictators like Putin and Kim Jong Un, and takes every opportunity to bash our closest democratic allies. Instead of leading alongside fellow democracies, he seems to be on the other team. His incompetence threatens to permanently reduce America’s standing and, consequently, our capacity to bring together nations to address shared challenges. This will change when I am president. We will restore the soul of this nation. And we will once again lead the international community in a way that is consistent with our most cherished values, standing with—not against—the rest of the free world.”

Biden Plan for Restoring America’s Leadership to Meet Challenges of 21st Century Starts With Reinvigorating Democracy

Vice President Joe Biden, seeking the Democratic nomination for President, lays out his foreign policy vision in a speech at NYU Graduate Center, July 11 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Today, Joe Biden laid out his foreign policy vision for America to restore dignified leadership at home and respected leadership on the world stage. Arguing that our policies at home and abroad are deeply connected, Joe Biden announced that, as president, he will advance the security, prosperity, and values of the United States by taking immediate steps to renew our own democracy and alliances, protect our economic future, and once more place America at the head of the table, leading the world to address the most urgent global challenges. 

In a Biden administration, America will lead by example and rally the world to meet our common challenges that no one nation can face on its own, from climate change to nuclear proliferation, from great power aggression to transnational terrorism, from cyberwarfare to mass migration. Donald Trump’s erratic policies and failure to uphold basic democratic principles have surrendered our position in the world, undermined our democratic alliances, weakened our ability to mobilize others to meet these challenges, and threatened our security and our future.

In a speech at The Graduate Center at CUNY in New York, Joe Biden laid out his blueprint to repair the damage wrought by President Trump and chart a fundamentally different course for American foreign policy for the world as we find it today—and as we anticipate it will be tomorrow. Biden will continue to build on this vision over the course of the campaign.

I. Reinvigorate our Own Democracy & Strengthen the Coalition of Democracies that Stand With Us 

Democracy is the root of our society, the wellspring of our power, and the source of our renewal. It strengthens and amplifies our leadership to keep us safe in the world. It is the engine of our ingenuity that drives our economic prosperity. It is the heart of who we are and how we see the world—and how the world sees us. That is why America’s ability to be a force for progress in the world and to mobilize collective action starts at home. The United States must lead not just with the example of power, but the power of our example.

Among his early actions as president, Joe Biden will: 

Reinforce our Democracy 

  • Remake our education system so that a child’s opportunity in life isn’t determined by their zip code or race;
  • Reform our criminal justice system to eliminate inequitable disparities; 
  • Restore the Voting Rights Act; 
  • Seek greater transparency in our campaign finance system so money, foreign and domestic, won’t pollute our politics; 
  • Dedicate greater resources, including cyber resources, to defending our election systems.
  • End the practice of anonymous shell companies; 
  • Institute strict conflict-of-interest and anti-corruption policies for every member of the Biden administration so there will be no more self-dealing; 
  • Immediately return to daily press briefings at the White House, U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Department of Defense. Our foreign policy relies on the informed consent of the American people. That is not possible when our government refuses to communicate with the public. 

Restore our Moral Leadership

  • Immediately end the horrific practice of separating families at our border and holding immigrant children in for-profit prisons. Abandoning our deepest-held values does nothing to increase security at our border—and everything to diminish our standing in the world. At the same time, as president, Biden will establish sensible policies that improve screening procedures at our legal ports of entry and make smart investments in border technology, in cooperation with Canada and Mexico.
  • Protect undocumented members of our armed services, veterans, and their spouses from deportation because if you are willing to risk your life for this country, you and your family have earned the chance to live safe, healthy, and productive lives in America; 
  • Order a review of Temporary Protected Status to vulnerable populations who cannot find safety in countries ripped apart by violence or disaster, including for Venezuelans and Haitians. 
  • Terminate the travel ban against people from Muslim-majority countries; 
  • Reverse Trump’s detrimental asylum policies and raise our target for refugee admissions to a level commensurate with our responsibility and unprecedented global need; 
  • End the Global Gag Rule, which prevents money from going to international NGOs that even talk about abortion;
  • Return to a government-wide focus of uplifting the rights of women and girls at home and around the world, including by focusing on measures to address gender-based violence internationally.
  • Reaffirm the ban on torture and restore greater transparency in our military operations, including policies instituted during the Obama-Biden administration to reduce civilian casualties;
  • Restore a commitment to science and truth in government, including bringing back the words “climate change”; 
  • Return the phrase “nation of immigrants” to the mission statement of our Citizenship and Immigration Services, because that is who we are.
  • Revitalize our national commitment to advancing human rights and democracy around the world.

Having taken these essential steps to reinforce the democratic foundation of our country and inspire action in others, President Biden will organize and host a global Summit for Democracy to renew the spirit and shared purpose of the nations of the Free World. During his first year in office, President Biden will bring together the world’s democracies to strengthen our democratic institutions, honestly confront the challenge of nations that are backsliding, and forge a common agenda to address threats to our common values.

  • The Summit will prioritize results by galvanizing significant new country commitments in three areas: (1) fighting corruption; (2) defending against authoritarianism, including election security; (3) advancing human rights in their own nations and abroad.
  • The Summit will include civil society organizations from around the world that stand on the frontlines in defense of our democracies.
  • The Summit will also issue a Call to Action for the private sector, including technology corporations and social media giants, to make their own commitments, recognizing their responsibilities and their overwhelming interest in preserving open, democratic societies and protecting free speech. For example, technology companies—which benefit from the fruits of democracy—should make concrete pledges for how they can ensure their algorithms and platforms are not empowering the surveillance state, facilitating repression in China and elsewhere, spreading hate, spurring people to violence, and remaining susceptible to misuse. 

As an example of the concrete action our world needs, Joe Biden served as a founding member of a Trans-Atlantic Commission on Election Integrity—to fight back against Russia’s attacks on Western democracies. The Commission asked politicians across Europe to sign a pledge committing to transparency in campaign finance and to reject the use of fabricated or hacked material. Now that he is a candidate for office, Biden has signed that pledge and is calling on every person running for president to do the same.

II. Equip our People to Succeed in a Global Economy with a Foreign Policy for the Middle Class

Joe Biden believes that economic security is national security. That is why, as president, Biden will pursue a foreign policy for the middle class. To win the competition for the future against China or anyone else, we must sharpen our innovative edge and unite the economic might of democracies around the world to counter abusive economic practices.

Rebuild the Middle Class, the Backbone of the Country: Give every student the skills they need to obtain a good 21st century job; make sure every single American has access to quality, affordable healthcare; invest in infrastructure; raise the minimum wage to $15; and lead the clean-economy revolution to create 10 million new jobs in the United States. 

Invest in Our Innovative Edge: Unleash our nation’s full potential—which includes unrivaled research universities, unparalleled venture capital, and our citizens’ unmatched spirit of entrepreneurship and commitment to hard work—with investments in research and development to spur advances in clean energy, quantum computing, artificial intelligence, 5G, and high-speed rail. We must ensure the technologies of the future like AI are bound by laws and ethics and promote greater shared prosperity and democracy. A Biden administration will join together with our democratic allies to develop secure, private sector-led 5G networks, leaving no community—rural or low-income—behind. 

Ensure the Rules of Road Benefit our Workers and our Communities: There is no going back to business as usual on trade. And he will ensure we negotiate from the strongest possible position. Joining with our fellow democracies, we represent about one-half of global GDP. As president, Biden will use this substantial leverage to shape the future rules of the road on everything from the environment to labor to trade to transparency, non-proliferation to cyber theft, and data privacy to artificial intelligence, so they continue to reflect democratic interests and values—America’s interests and values. 

III. Renew American Leadership to Mobilize Global Action on Global Threats

The world does not organize itself. American leadership, backed by clear goals and sound strategies, is necessary to effectively address the defining global challenges of our time. In order to lead again, we must restore our credibility and influence. From day one of a Biden administration, other countries will once again have reason to trust and respect the word of an American president. Working together, democracies can and must confront the rise of populists, nationalists, and demagogues; the growing strength of autocratic powers and their efforts to divide and manipulate democracies; and the threats unique to our time, including the renewed threat of nuclear war, mass migration, the disruptive impact of new technologies, and climate change.

Defend our Vital Interests: As president, Biden will never hesitate to protect the American people, including when necessary, by using force. We have the strongest military in the world—and as president, Biden will ensure it stays that way. The Biden administration will make the investments necessary to equip our troops for the challenges of the next century, not the last one. But the use of force should be our last resort, not our first—used only to defend our vital interests, when the objective is clear and achievable, and with the informed consent of the American people. 

End Forever Wars: Biden will end the forever wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, which have cost us untold blood and treasure. As he has long argued, Biden will bring the vast majority of our troops home from Afghanistan and narrowly focus our mission on Al-Qaeda and ISIS. And he will end our support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen. Staying entrenched in unwinnable conflicts only drains our capacity to lead on other issues that require our attention, and it prevents us from rebuilding the other instruments of American power.

Elevate Diplomacy: As president, Biden will elevate diplomacy as the premier tool of our global engagement. He will rebuild a modern, agile U.S. Department of State—investing in and re-empowering the finest diplomatic corps in the world and leveraging the full talent and richness of America’s diversity. Working cooperatively with other nations makes us more secure and more successful. For example, as president, Biden will launch a top-to-bottom review of our funding to Central America to determine how we can build on a successful initiative from the Obama-Biden administration that secured concrete commitments from the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to take on the corruption, violence, and endemic poverty that drive migration. 

Restore and Reimagine Partnerships: A Biden administration will do more than restore our historic partnerships; it will lead the effort to reimagine them for the future. This means keeping NATO’s military capabilities sharp, while also expanding our capacity to take on new, non-traditional threats like weaponized corruption, cyber theft, and new challenges in space and on the high seas; calling on all NATO nations to recommit to their responsibilities as members of a democratic alliance; and strengthening cooperation with democratic partners beyond North America and Europe by reaching out to our partners in Asia to fortify our collective capabilities and integrating our friends in Latin America and Africa. When the United States hosts the next Summit of the Americas in 2021, President Biden will harness this opportunity to rebuild strong hemispheric ties based on respect for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. We will also strengthen our alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia and other Asian democracies, while sustaining an ironclad commitment to Israel’s security.

Renew our Commitment to Arms Control for a New Era: 

  • The historic Iran nuclear deal, negotiated by the Obama-Biden administration alongside our allies and other world powers, blocked Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Yet Trump decided to cast it aside, prompting Iran to restart its nuclear program and become more provocative, bringing the region to the cusp of another disastrous war. If Tehran returns to compliance with the deal, President Biden would re-enter the agreement, using hard-nosed diplomacy and support from our allies to strengthen and extend it, while more effectively pushing back against Iran’s other destabilizing activities. 
  • In North Korea, President Biden will empower our negotiators and jump start a sustained, coordinated campaign with our allies and others, including China, to advance our shared objective of a denuclearized North Korea. 
  • As president, Biden will pursue an extension of the New START Treaty, an anchor of strategic stability between the United States and Russia, and use that as a foundation for new arms control arrangements. 
  • President Biden would take other steps to demonstrate our commitment to reducing the role of nuclear weapons. As he said in 2017, Biden believes the sole purpose of the U.S. nuclear arsenal should be deterring—and if necessary, retaliating against—a nuclear attack. As president, he will work to put that belief into practice, in consultation with our allies and military. 

Rally the World to Address Existential Climate Crisis: The Biden administration will rejoin the Paris Climate Accord on day one and lead a major diplomatic push to raise the ambitions of countries’ climate targets. To catalyze this effort and demonstrate concrete actions at home to achieve a clean-energy economy with net-zero emissions by 2050, President Biden – as outlined in his comprehensive plan – will in his first 100 days in office:

  • Convene a climate world summit to directly engage the leaders of the major carbon-emitting nations of the world to persuade them to join the United States in making more ambitious national pledges, above and beyond the commitments they have already made.
  • Lock in enforceable commitments that will reduce emissions in global shipping and aviation—and pursue strong measures to make sure other nations can’t undercut us economically as we meet our own commitments. This includes pressuring China—the world’s largest emitter of carbon—to stop subsidizing coal exports and outsourcing their pollution to other countries by financing billions of dollars of dirty fossil-fuel energy projects through their Belt and Road Initiative.

See also: Biden Gives Speech on Foreign Policy that Defines His Quest for Presidency

What I Learned From Traveling Around the World in 23 Days

Inle Lake, Myanmar. A trip around the world affords an opportunity to meet people on their own turf. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News& Photo Features

Bill Chalmers, the “ringmaster” and Chief Experience Officer of the Global Scavenger Hunt, launches us on this around-the-world-in-23-days mystery tour with what he calls a “chimpanzee test” – a test where a chimpanzee is likely to get more answers right than a human being who has news and information available to them. The test basically demonstrates that unlike the gloom-and-doom of headlines, the trendlines are positive and these are actually the best of times for human society.

Throughout this Global Scavenger Hunt, “A Blind Date With the World” – where we don’t know where we are going next until we are told when to go to the airport or get ourselves there, and along the way, complete scavenges and challenges –  we are encouraged, even forced, to “trust in the kindness of strangers.” To interact with local people even when we can’t understand each other’s language. To learn and understand for ourselves.

For me, it is an incomparable opportunity to see in close proximity and context what is happening in countries literally around the globe – to examine this notion of American Exceptionalism, America First; to see the scope of such hot-button issues as trade, technology, migration and how they have played out over the longer course of human civilization. (I have a theory that 98% of Trump’s so-called hard-core base have never traveled beyond their own provincial border.)

As Chalmers notes, it is conceit to think we can parachute into places and understand the nuances of complex issues, but still, travel is about seeing for yourself, but also gaining an understanding of one another, disabusing stereotypes or caricatures, and most significantly, not seeing others as “other”, which works both ways. In very real ways (and especially now), travelers are ambassadors, no less than diplomats. Isolating people is not how change happens – that only hardens points of view, and makes people susceptible to fear-mongering and all the bad things that have happened throughout human history as a result. “See for yourself,” Chalmers tells us.

This is particularly poignant when we arrive in Myanmar:  One of the first things I see upon arriving in Yangon, Myanmar (formerly known as Rangoon in its colonial days) is the National Human Rights Commission which at this juncture, strikes as ironic. But despite the awful headlines, we all find the people of Myanmar to be kind, gentle, considerate. And a complete lack of politics or angst.

And just after returning home, the two prizewinning Reuters journalists imprisoned for their reporting of the deadly crackdown on the Rohingya, were released.

War Remnants Museum, Ho C hi Minh City, Vietnam. Press photos from international journalists from the time of the Vietnam War document the atrocities committed and go unpunished © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Vietnam is a testament to the resiliency of human society to rebound after wars and other crises (as we see everywhere, in fact – in Spain, in Portugal, in Greece, places that suffered during World War II, and you reflect on the success of the alliances that set the stage for 70 years of progress, now being weakened). In Vietnam, visiting the Chu Chi Tunnels and the War Remnants Museum, you cannot help but feel ashamed at the war crimes that remain unpunished because of the wealth and power of the United States.

In Gibraltar, still a colony of Great Britain, I come upon a May Day labor rally that could have been New York City: Privatization. Nonconsultation and lack of transparency. Unfair distribution. Wage increases that don’t keep up with the cost of living.

May Day Rally in Gibraltar © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Abu Dhabi is like a fantasy of a society built on oil wealth, conspicuous ostentation, a gallery of skyscrapers that defy physics; Amman, Jordan, on the other hand, is the real world. But my side trip to Petra – a fantastic city carved out of the rock faces, showed how greatness is made possible by innovations in engineering a water supply. Petra was able to dominate (and protect) the caravan routes, and the result was fabulous art and culture.

This theme picked up again in Athens, visiting the National Archaeological Museum, where I am struck by the artistry from 2500 years ago (themes and imagery that I will see again repeated throughout history on our final stop in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art) and realize that the human species is not smarter or better than thousands of years ago, we just have better tools and technology.

But this panel about 6th Century Greece stood out that notes the nexus between trade, migration, innovation, democracy and culture and rise of empire:

“The nature of the economy underwent a radical change as a result of the growth of trade. A new class of citizens emerged who were conscious of liberty and its potential and now demanded the right to play an active role in the running of public affairs….The liberty that was characteristic of the Greek way of life and which governed their thinking finds eloquent expression in their artistic creations. …Works of art and artists moved freely along the trade routes. The wealth and power of the city-states were expressed in the erection of monumental, lavishly adorned temples and impressive public welfare works.

“Greeks turned their attention to the natural world and to phenomena that gave rise to philosophical speculation, formulative ideas such as those of matter, the atom, force, space and time, and laying the foundations of science…”

But then came the rise of the Persian Empire and the Persian Wars.

Banquet Relief of Malku with Two Attendants, ca early 3rd C, artifact from Palmyra. The ancient site has been destroyed by ISIS and the artifacts looted © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

These themes are repeated in New York City  where our “Global Scavenger Hunt” ends. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the challenge I take is to find objects from five of the countries we visited, and this leads me to a fascinating exhibit, “The World Between Empires: Art and Identity in the Ancient Middle East.” The museum rarely (if ever) becomes political, but in this exhibit, archaeologists comment on the destruction of Palmyra and other ancient sites by ISIS.

“It may seem frivolous to focus on monuments, museums when people are enslaved and killed. But to wipe out, destroy culture is a way of destroying people. We must protect heritage as well.”

Palmyra only exists now “on paper” and in photos after the destruction by ISIS © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

It is a humbling experience, to be sure, to go to the origins of the great civilizations, fast forward to today. How did they become great? How did they fall? Greatness is not inevitable or forever.  Empires rise and fall. Rulers use religion, art and monuments to establish their credibility and credentials to rule; successors blot out the culture and re-write history. Traveling around the world, you appreciate just what a small world it is, how interdependent we are, how vulnerable our societies are, and that individuals do have impact. Also, that people everywhere are more similar than different.

I come back to a monstrously disturbing New York Times headline: “Humans Are Speeding Extinction and Altering the Natural World at an ‘Unprecedented’ Pace:”

“Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.”

The Barbary Macaques delight visitors to Gibraltar but the loss of 1 million species due to human activity and development is more threatening to society and civilization than the impact on tourism revenue © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

In this case, headlines are trendlines. And it isn’t just about aesthetics or seeing animals like the Barbary Macaques that delight tourists in Gibraltar, but whole economies and sustenance. It is a matter of national security, peace and progress. It is about food and water supply, disease, habitable spaces. Sea level rise alone is expected to trigger 300 million climate refugees, competing for dwindling resources. There have been periods of mass extinction in the past – in fact, homo sapiens (us) were touch and go there for awhile.

Chalmers started off our “Blind Date With the World” with the Nicholas Kristof model, that these are actually the best of times for human society despite the gloom and doom headlines. But I disagree: the trendlines are not that hopeful. We may well be living in a golden age of human capacity, but we must recognize that we now have the power of the Gods to shape, to destroy or to create. And we seem too short-sighted to see that.

“Governments must start putting people and the planet ahead of corporate interests and greed and act with the urgency this report illustrates,” writes Annie Leonard, Executive Director, Greenpeace USA. “Leaders must adopt strong targets and implementation plans to protect biodiversity with the active participation and Free, Prior, and Informed Consent of Indigenous Peoples and local communities. Instead of plundering the forests and seas for short-term profit we need to shift our system into one that respects planetary boundaries.”

The Greek Gods may well have the last laugh at the extraordinary ability humans have to destroy themselves.

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© 2019 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump Chairing Security Council, Calls for New Sanctions Against Iran, Accuses China of Interfering in US Election

Donald Trump chairs the United Nations Security Council meeting, Sept. 26, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

During a Security Council meeting on counter-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Donald Trump, chairing the meeting, cited chemical weapons being used in Syria, aided by Russia and Iran, but proceeded only to chastise Iran, and used Iran’s support of terrorism in the region to justify pulling out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and reimposing economic sanctions on Iran.

“The regime is the world’s leading sponsor of terror and fuels conflict across the region and far beyond.  A regime with this track record must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon.

“For this reason, I announced earlier this year that the United States would withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.

“This horrible, one-sided deal allowed Iran to continue its path towards a bomb and gave the regime a cash lifeline when they needed it the most.  They were in big, big trouble.  They needed cash.  We gave it to them.”

“After that, the United States will pursue additional sanctions, tougher than ever before, to counter the entire range of Iran’s malign conduct.  Any individual or entity who fails to comply with these sanctions will face severe consequences.

“I ask all members of the Security Council to work with the United States to ensure the Iranian regime changes its behavior and never acquires a nuclear bomb.”

Donald Trump arrives last at the Security Council meeting to little fanfare© Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In his remarks to the Security Council, Trump went on to thank Iran, Russia, and Syria “for — at my very strong urging and request — substantially slowing down their attack on Idlib Province and the 3 million people who live there in order to get 35,000 targeted terrorists.  Get the terrorists, but I hope the restraint continues.  The world is watching.

“Thank you also to Turkey for helping to negotiate restraint.  Anything the USA can do to help resolve this problem in order to save perhaps even hundreds of thousands of lives, maybe more, we are willing and able.  We are available to help.”

Donald Trump, sitting next to UN Secretary General António Guterres © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.commeeting, Sept. 26, 2018

Without missing a beat, Trump then accused China (not Russia) of interfering in the upcoming US midterm elections – by retaliating against US-imposed tariffs with tariffs on products impacting Trump’s voter base including farmers.

“China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election coming up in November against my administration.  They do not want me, or us, to win because I am the first President ever to challenge China on trade.  And we are winning on trade.  We are winning at every level.  We don’t want them to meddle or interfere in our upcoming election.”

Meanwhile, he overstated the progress being made with denuclearizing North Korea.

“As I also mentioned yesterday, we have seen the results of historic efforts to open new pathways to peace on the North Korean Peninsula — on the Korean Peninsula.  And that’s something we are extremely proud of.

DDonald Trump chairs the Security Council meeting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“I am pleased to say that North Korea has not conducted a missile test since last November.  It has not conducted a nuclear test since last September.  And the hostages have been returned to us.  And very importantly, the remains of American heroes are now returning home.

“In June, I held a historic summit with Chairman Kim Jong Un in Singapore, where he reaffirmed his commitment to complete denuclearization.  Last week, Chairman Kim reiterated that commitment to President Moon at their third summit, and to me in a very strong letter form.

“I think we will make a deal.  But unfortunately, to ensure this progress continues, we must enforce existing U.N. Security Council resolutions until denuclearization occurs.”

John Bolton, Trump’s National Security Adviser and a hard-liner on Iran, and Chief of Staff John F. Kelly listen as Donald Trump calls for renewed sanctions against Iran © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But he expressed concern that “some nations” (without naming Russia) are already violating these U.N. sanctions.  This includes illegal ship-to-ship transfers, which must end immediately.  The safety of the Korean Peninsula, the region, and the world, depends on full compliance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.  Very, very important.

“But most importantly, I believe that Chairman Kim Jong Un, a man I have gotten to know and like, wants peace and prosperity for North Korea.  Many things are happening behind the scenes — away from the media, which nobody knows — but they are happening nevertheless and they are happening in a very positive way.  So I think you will have some very good news coming from North Korea in the coming months and years.

“I also very much appreciate what President Moon of South Korea had to say about me last night in television interviews.  Working with President Moon has been my great honor.  And likewise, working with President Xi of China and Prime Minister Abe of Japan has been a pleasure and an honor.”

Donald Trump chairs the Security Council meeting © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Trump finished with flourishes of glory: “Each of us follows in the footsteps of countless world leaders, diplomats, and public servants who came here to the United Nations with the same noble goal: to build a future worthy of the patriots — true, true patriots — who sacrificed their lives for our nation and for our future.

“To be successful, we need a commitment of every nation represented in this chamber.  Acting together, we can replace the horrors of war with the blessings of safety and the beautiful promise of peace.”

But speakers afterward countered Trump that the way to foster nonproliferation was to save the Iran Nuclear Agreement and build upon it.

United Kingdom Prime Minister Teresa May and French President Emmanuel Macron at the Security Council meeting, Sept. 26, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

French President Emmanuel Macron said there needed to be a long-term strategy to manage the Iran issue and that it could not be done with just sanctions and containment. During a press briefing, Macron said that crippling Iran’s economy would be counterproductive and he would look to mitigate the impact of US sanctions.

French President Emmanuel Macron greets members of the African delegation at the Security Council meeting, Sept. 26, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

And in his General Assembly address, Iran President Hassan Rouhani declared the current US administration “seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual.”

“What Iran says is clear: no war, no sanctions, no threats, no bullying; just acting according to the law and the fulfillment of obligations,” Rouhani said.

In his General Assembly address, Iran President Hassan Rouhani declared the current US administration “seems determined to render all international institutions ineffectual.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Rouhani said Iran was pleased other countries did not “acquiesce” to the US demands to break the deal.

Unilateral sanctions “constitute a form of economic terrorism and a breach of the right for development,” Rouhani declared.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

French President, Countering Trump, Defends Multilateralism, Suggests New Coalitions that Would Isolate, Weaken US

Emmanuel Macron, President of France, at the 73rd United Nations General Assembly, defended multilateralism while urging new coalitions form to solve the most pressing global issues and offering mechanisms to isolate, work around, and ultimately weaken the ability of the United States to force its will © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Emmanuel Macron, President of France, threw down the gauntlet to US President Donald Trump, delivering the anti-America First rebuttal to Trump’s speech to the 73rd United Nations General Assembly. Macron defended multilateralism while urging new coalitions form to solve the most pressing global issues and offering mechanisms to isolate, work around, and ultimately weaken the ability of the United States to force its will.

He contradicted Trump’s call for countries to sanction Iran and said that he would like the Euro to be strengthened to weaken the US dollar as a global currency and its ability to be used as a cudgel to force nations to bow to United States.

“We need to be able to open exchanges to other democratic powers. We need to build new coalitions to make progress on trade – a strategic dialogue with China; on tech. a partnership with India; on climate, clear specific dialogue with China, India and Africa; on education inequality, with Africa.”

Insisting on multilateralism as the only means to prevent conflicts and deal with global issues of inequality, climate change, Macron drew stark contrast to Trump’s dystopian view of globalism, evoking  the memory of two world wars out of the ashes of which the United Nations was formed. Instead of following Trump’s call to increase sanctions on Iran, he urged more cooperation, and advocated for the two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

“During anniversary of 1948 declaration [of Human Rights], we are reminded that human rights not a cultural fact, but fundamental values… universality is compatible with sovereignty of people and is indeed only way to preserve rights – France shall remain there to make sure world not forget that nationalism always leads to defeat, that if courage is lacking in defense of fundamental principles, international order becomes fragile and this can lead, as we have seen twice, to global war.”

In his speech and afterward at a press briefing, Macron struck at Trump’s pet issue, trade, suggesting that either France would not forge a trade agreement with a country that was not part of the Paris Climate Accord, or there would be mitigation (which makes sense since Trump argues there are economic costs to climate action, therefore producers who do not adhere would have an advantage over countries that impose standards and regulations aimed at curbing heat-trapping gases). Macron said such trade agreements would also be used to bar genetically-modified food products.

“That means there is no comprehensive agreement if [the nation is] not in line with Paris … Today we need to find solutions where we can equalize tariffs – if neutral on climate – however this generation of significant trade agreements that might run counter, I’m not in favor of.

“France continues to spearhead this global fight against climate change,” Macron added. “In the G7, I will work to see the Paris obligations increased… The G7 must remain firmly committed to democracy, unified, also lead to new coalitions, reforging the global collective system – new forms of cooperation to make strides forward – effectively push back against these inequalities which have eroded our societies – mistrust- isolationism – fueled such actions –all these inequalities we have let fester and collective inability to find solutions. No single nation can solve on its own.” But, he said, “Our collective system falling apart…”

He also veered significantly away from Trump’s call to impose new sanctions on Iran, saying that the situation isn’t helped by hurting Iran’s economy.

“What will bring a real solution to the situation in Iran and what has already stabilized it? The law of the strongest? Pressure from only one side? No! We know that Iran was on a nuclear military path but what stopped it? The 2015 Vienna accord,” he said.

Elaborating in the press briefing, he said, “The consequences of US strategy in Iran –I have little doubt Trump will sanction on Nov 4 – will have impact on Iranian businesses, but especially those businesses that trade with Iran and are exposed to US dollar,” he said in the press briefing.

“The strategy of the United States to reduce Iranian financial capacity to weaken [the regime] I don’t share. I believe we can bring more pressure politically if we support Iran’s economic situation – that would put more pressure on current regime. For some months, I have been working to keep Iran in [the nuclear] agreement, and develop substitutes but it won’t replace all US (sanctions), the businesses that are exposed to US – but will help industrial and trade solutions for regional powers. In context of Vienna agreement, the work we have undertaken with 3 European countries (France, Germany, United Kingdom) and the European Union, working with Iran, but we also started with China, India, Russia, to work with them and regional powers, to find a trade solution that is viable and make it possible to build a solution.

“Clearly we can’t respond to all solutions, but we are convinced some trade solutions might give beginning of answer. The crux of matter is we favor of strengthening Iran’s economic and financial sovereignty –I  don’t think good for Europe, for the US decision to impact European business that can’t work with (Iran). Certain American decisions [are possible] due to extraterritoriality of dollar. I am in favor of a stronger Euro and a stronger Eurozone – that would provide a counterbalance to dollars. I am in favor of rules in trade, financial, economic to strengthen European sovereignty with market [forces]. That is one of the things the next mandate of European Parliament and commission [need to address].”

He gave an indirect rebuke to Trump (who hailed his decision to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem) on the Israel-Palestinian conflict, saying, “What can resolve the crisis between Israel and Palestine?” asked Macron. “Not unilateral initiatives, nor trampling on the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to legitimate peace. There is no credible alternative to the two-state solution.”

Macron was treated as rock star – The session he headed on reaffirming Climate Action goals was standing room only – guards had to fight off people trying to get into the too-small conference room.

Macron seems to be taking over the role of “conscience” of world – fighting for climate action, equality, education, rational migration, sustainable development. He moaned over the 250 million children who cannot attend school, the 100 million living in abject poverty.

You may be tired of multilateralism,” he said, but “never forget that genocide which led to you being here today, the very genocides which are fueled by divisions, erosion of the global order, all of this happens because we turn our heads and remain complacent… I do not accept the erosion of multilateralism. I don’t accept our history unraveling. Our children are watching. Let us address the crises, work together to combat inequalities, do it on a human level [guided by the] principle of universalism.

Macron urged new financing mechanisms – for example, using sovereign funds to invest in sustainable development and climate action – and ‘out of the box’ thinking.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Trump to UN General Assembly: ‘America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination’

US President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 

(New York, NY, Sept. 25, 2018) Speaking in modulated tones and clinging to the words in the teleprompter, Donald Trump gave a big F-U to the UN, in his second address to the United Nations General Assembly, rejecting multilateralism in favor of sovereignty.

But just a few sentences into the speech, his statement, “In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.” drew snickers. He continued, “America’s –so true,” as the snickers grew into laughter. “Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay,” he said with a nervous grin, to laughter and applause.

His speech recycled favorite throw-out lines that have worked well on his campaign-style rallies to friendly crowds, reviewing what he claimed for himself as successes. And after reviewing – gloating – over the economic boom in the US (he claimed to have added $10 trillion in wealth, the stock market at record highs, lowest unemployment, added 4 million jobs, tax cuts, “record funding” of $700 billion for the military), he suggested that America’s bounty somehow benefited others.

US President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd United Nations General Assembly in New York, Sept. 25, 2018 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But whereas others – notably French President Macron and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres – spoke of the need to address horrific inequality, gender discrimination, climate disasters that disproportionately affect certain segments of the world’s population, to invest in “sustainable” development – Trump’s message to the world: “I’ve got mine. Screw you.”

“America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination,” he said, in rejecting the Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, the Global Compact on Migration, the Paris Climate Accord, and the Iran Nuclear Agreement, while calling for the nations to sanction Iran. “We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.

Later, French President Emmanuel Macron offered a contrary message, embracing multilateralism, and standing up for new coalitions to fight inequality and climate change.

Here is a highlighted transcript of Trump’s remarks (notably, too, Trump arrived late):

–Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

10:38 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Madam President, Mr. Secretary-General, world leaders, ambassadors, and distinguished delegates:

One year ago, I stood before you for the first time in this grand hall.  I addressed the threats facing our world, and I presented a vision to achieve a brighter future for all of humanity.

Today, I stand before the United Nations General Assembly to share the extraordinary progress we’ve made.

In less than two years, my administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country.

America’s — so true.  (Laughter.)  Didn’t expect that reaction, but that’s okay.  (Laughter and applause.)

America’s economy is booming like never before.  Since my election, we’ve added $10 trillion in wealth.  The stock market is at an all-time high in history, and jobless claims are at a 50-year low.  African American, Hispanic American, and Asian American unemployment have all achieved their lowest levels ever recorded.  We’ve added more than 4 million new jobs, including half a million manufacturing jobs.

We have passed the biggest tax cuts and reforms in American history.  We’ve started the construction of a major border wall, and we have greatly strengthened border security.

We have secured record funding for our military — $700 billion this year, and $716 billion next year.  Our military will soon be more powerful than it has ever been before.

In other words, the United States is stronger, safer, and a richer country than it was when I assumed office less than two years ago.

We are standing up for America and for the American people.  And we are also standing up for the world.

This is great news for our citizens and for peace-loving people everywhere.  We believe that when nations respect the rights of their neighbors, and defend the interests of their people, they can better work together to secure the blessings of safety, prosperity, and peace….

Each of us here today is the emissary of a distinct culture, a rich history, and a people bound together by ties of memory, tradition, and the values that make our homelands like nowhere else on Earth.

That is why America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination.

US President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd United Nations General Assembly: “America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control, and domination.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

I honor the right of every nation in this room to pursue its own customs, beliefs, and traditions.  The United States will not tell you how to live or work or worship.  We only ask that you honor our sovereignty in return.

From Warsaw to Brussels, to Tokyo to Singapore, it has been my highest honor to represent the United States abroad.  I have forged close relationships and friendships and strong partnerships with the leaders of many nations in this room, and our approach has already yielded incredible change.

North Korea

With support from many countries here today, we have engaged with North Korea to replace the specter of conflict with a bold and new push for peace.

In June, I traveled to Singapore to meet face to face with North Korea’s leader, Chairman Kim Jong Un.  We had highly productive conversations and meetings, and we agreed that it was in both countries’ interest to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  Since that meeting, we have already seen a number of encouraging measures that few could have imagined only a short time ago.

The missiles and rockets are no longer flying in every direction.  Nuclear testing has stopped.  Some military facilities are already being dismantled.  Our hostages have been released.  And as promised, the remains of our fallen heroes are being returned home to lay at rest in American soil.

I would like to thank Chairman Kim for his courage and for the steps he has taken, though much work remains to be done.  The sanctions will stay in place until denuclearization occurs.

I also want to thank the many member states who helped us reach this moment — a moment that is actually far greater than people would understand; far greater — but for also their support and the critical support that we will all need going forward.

A special thanks to President Moon of South Korea, Prime Minister Abe of Japan, and President Xi of China.

In the Middle East, our new approach is also yielding great strides and very historic change.

Following my trip to Saudi Arabia last year, the Gulf countries opened a new center to target terrorist financing.  They are enforcing new sanctions, working with us to identify and track terrorist networks, and taking more responsibility for fighting terrorism and extremism in their own region. 

The UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar have pledged billions of dollars to aid the people of Syria and Yemen.  And they are pursuing multiple avenues to ending Yemen’s horrible, horrific civil war.

Ultimately, it is up to the nations of the region to decide what kind of future they want for themselves and their children.

For that reason, the United States is working with the Gulf Cooperation Council, Jordan, and Egypt to establish a regional strategic alliance so that Middle Eastern nations can advance prosperity, stability, and security across their home region.

Thanks to the United States military and our partnership with many of your nations, I am pleased to report that the bloodthirsty killers known as ISIS have been driven out from the territory they once held in Iraq and Syria.  We will continue to work with friends and allies to deny radical Islamic terrorists any funding, territory or support, or any means of infiltrating our borders.

The ongoing tragedy in Syria is heartbreaking.  Our shared goals must be the de-escalation of military conflict, along with a political solution that honors the will of the Syrian people.  In this vein, we urge the United Nations-led peace process be reinvigorated.  But, rest assured, the United States will respond if chemical weapons are deployed by the Assad regime.

I commend the people of Jordan and other neighboring countries for hosting refugees from this very brutal civil war.

As we see in Jordan, the most compassionate policy is to place refugees as close to their homes as possible to ease their eventual return to be part of the rebuilding process.  This approach also stretches finite resources to help far more people, increasing the impact of every dollar spent.

Iran

Every solution to the humanitarian crisis in Syria must also include a strategy to address the brutal regime that has fueled and financed it: the corrupt dictatorship in Iran.

Iran’s leaders sow chaos, death, and destruction.  They do not respect their neighbors or borders, or the sovereign rights of nations.  Instead, Iran’s leaders plunder the nation’s resources to enrich themselves and to spread mayhem across the Middle East and far beyond.

The Iranian people are rightly outraged that their leaders have embezzled billions of dollars from Iran’s treasury, seized valuable portions of the economy, and looted the people’s religious endowments, all to line their own pockets and send their proxies to wage war.  Not good.

Iran’s neighbors have paid a heavy toll for the region’s [regime’s] agenda of aggression and expansion.  That is why so many countries in the Middle East strongly supported my decision to withdraw the United States from the horrible 2015 Iran Nuclear Deal and re-impose nuclear sanctions.

The Iran deal was a windfall for Iran’s leaders.  In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget grew nearly 40 percent.  The dictatorship used the funds to build nuclear-capable missiles, increase internal repression, finance terrorism, and fund havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen.

The United States has launched a campaign of economic pressure to deny the regime the funds it needs to advance its bloody agenda.  Last month, we began re-imposing hard-hitting nuclear sanctions that had been lifted under the Iran deal.  Additional sanctions will resume November 5th, and more will follow.  And we’re working with countries that import Iranian crude oil to cut their purchases substantially.

We cannot allow the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to possess the planet’s most dangerous weapons.  We cannot allow a regime that chants “Death to America,” and that threatens Israel with annihilation, to possess the means to deliver a nuclear warhead to any city on Earth.  Just can’t do it.

We ask all nations to isolate Iran’s regime as long as its aggression continues.  And we ask all nations to support Iran’s people as they struggle to reclaim their religious and righteous destiny.

US Delegation including VP Mike Pence, UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, John Bolton listen as Trump delivers address to UN General Assembly © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Israel-Palestine

This year, we also took another significant step forward in the Middle East.  In recognition of every sovereign state to determine its own capital, I moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

The United States is committed to a future of peace and stability in the region, including peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  That aim is advanced, not harmed, by acknowledging the obvious facts.

America’s policy of principled realism means we will not be held hostage to old dogmas, discredited ideologies, and so-called experts who have been proven wrong over the years, time and time again.  This is true not only in matters of peace, but in matters of prosperity.

Trade

We believe that trade must be fair and reciprocal.  The United States will not be taken advantage of any longer.

For decades, the United States opened its economy — the largest, by far, on Earth — with few conditions.  We allowed foreign goods from all over the world to flow freely across our borders. 

Yet, other countries did not grant us fair and reciprocal access to their markets in return.  Even worse, some countries abused their openness to dump their products, subsidize their goods, target our industries, and manipulate their currencies to gain unfair advantage over our country.  As a result, our trade deficit ballooned to nearly $800 billion a year.

For this reason, we are systematically renegotiating broken and bad trade deals. 

Last month, we announced a groundbreaking U.S.-Mexico trade agreement.  And just yesterday, I stood with President Moon to announce the successful completion of the brand new U.S.-Korea trade deal.  And this is just the beginning.

Many nations in this hall will agree that the world trading system is in dire need of change.  For example, countries were admitted to the World Trade Organization that violate every single principle on which the organization is based.  While the United States and many other nations play by the rules, these countries use government-run industrial planning and state-owned enterprises to rig the system in their favor.  They engage in relentless product dumping, forced technology transfer, and the theft of intellectual property. 

The United States lost over 3 million manufacturing jobs, nearly a quarter of all steel jobs, and 60,000 factories after China joined the WTO.  And we have racked up $13 trillion in trade deficits over the last two decades.

But those days are over.  We will no longer tolerate such abuse.  We will not allow our workers to be victimized, our companies to be cheated, and our wealth to be plundered and transferred.  America will never apologize for protecting its citizens.

The United States has just announced tariffs on another $200 billion in Chinese-made goods for a total, so far, of $250 billion.  I have great respect and affection for my friend, President Xi, but I have made clear our trade imbalance is just not acceptable.  China’s market distortions and the way they deal cannot be tolerated.

As my administration has demonstrated, America will always act in our national interest. 

Reject Globalism, Embrace Doctrine of Patriotism

I spoke before this body last year and warned that the U.N. Human Rights Council had become a grave embarrassment to this institution, shielding egregious human rights abusers while bashing America and its many friends. 

Our Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, laid out a clear agenda for reform, but despite reported and repeated warnings, no action at all was taken.  So the United States took the only responsible course: We withdrew from the Human Rights Council, and we will not return until real reform is enacted.

US President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd United Nations General Assembly: America is governed by Americans. We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

For similar reasons, the United States will provide no support in recognition to the International Criminal Court.  As far as America is concerned, the ICC has no jurisdiction, no legitimacy, and no authority.  The ICC claims near-universal jurisdiction over the citizens of every country, violating all principles of justice, fairness, and due process.  We will never surrender America’s sovereignty to an unelected, unaccountable, global bureaucracy. 

America is governed by Americans.  We reject the ideology of globalism, and we embrace the doctrine of patriotism.

OPEC

Around the world, responsible nations must defend against threats to sovereignty not just from global governance, but also from other, new forms of coercion and domination.

In America, we believe strongly in energy security for ourselves and for our allies.  We have become the largest energy producer anywhere on the face of the Earth.  The United States stands ready to export our abundant, affordable supply of oil, clean coal, and natural gas.

OPEC and OPEC nations, are, as usual, ripping off the rest of the world, and I don’t like it.  Nobody should like it.  We defend many of these nations for nothing, and then they take advantage of us by giving us high oil prices.  Not good.

We want them to stop raising prices, we want them to start lowering prices, and they must contribute substantially to military protection from now on.  We are not going to put up with it — these horrible prices — much longer.

Reliance on a single foreign supplier can leave a nation vulnerable to extortion and intimidation.  That is why we congratulate European states, such as Poland, for leading the construction of a Baltic pipeline so that nations are not dependent on Russia to meet their energy needs.  Germany will become totally dependent on Russian energy if it does not immediately change course.

Here in the Western Hemisphere, we are committed to maintaining our independence from the encroachment of expansionist foreign powers.

It has been the formal policy of our country since President Monroe that we reject the interference of foreign nations in this hemisphere and in our own affairs.  The United States has recently strengthened our laws to better screen foreign investments in our country for national security threats, and we welcome cooperation with countries in this region and around the world that wish to do the same.  You need to do it for your own protection.

No to Global Compact on Migration 

The United States is also working with partners in Latin America to confront threats to sovereignty from uncontrolled migration.  Tolerance for human struggling and human smuggling and trafficking is not humane.  It’s a horrible thing that’s going on, at levels that nobody has ever seen before.  It’s very, very cruel. 

Illegal immigration funds criminal networks, ruthless gangs, and the flow of deadly drugs.  Illegal immigration exploits vulnerable populations, hurts hardworking citizens, and has produced a vicious cycle of crime, violence, and poverty.  Only by upholding national borders, destroying criminal gangs, can we break this cycle and establish a real foundation for prosperity. 

We recognize the right of every nation in this room to set its own immigration policy in accordance with its national interests, just as we ask other countries to respect our own right to do the same — which we are doing.  That is one reason the United States will not participate in the new Global Compact on Migration.  Migration should not be governed by an international body unaccountable to our own citizens.

Ultimately, the only long-term solution to the migration crisis is to help people build more hopeful futures in their home countries.  Make their countries great again.  

Venezuela: A Lesson in Evils of Socialism

Currently, we are witnessing a human tragedy, as an example, in Venezuela.  More than 2 million people have fled the anguish inflicted by the socialist Maduro regime and its Cuban sponsors.

Not long ago, Venezuela was one of the richest countries on Earth.  Today, socialism has bankrupted the oil-rich nation and driven its people into abject poverty.

Virtually everywhere socialism or communism has been tried, it has produced suffering, corruption, and decay.  Socialism’s thirst for power leads to expansion, incursion, and oppression.  All nations of the world should resist socialism and the misery that it brings to everyone.

Calling for new sanctions against Venezuela, Trump declared, “Socialism’s thirst for power leads to expansion, incursion, and oppression. All nations of the world should resist socialism and the misery that it brings to everyone. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In that spirit, we ask the nations gathered here to join us in calling for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.  Today, we are announcing additional sanctions against the repressive regime, targeting Maduro’s inner circle and close advisors.

We are grateful for all the work the United Nations does around the world to help people build better lives for themselves and their families.

US Foreign Aid Only to Those Who Like Us

The United States is the world’s largest giver in the world, by far, of foreign aid.  But few give anything to us.  That is why we are taking a hard look at U.S. foreign assistance.  That will be headed up by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.  We will examine what is working, what is not working, and whether the countries who receive our dollars and our protection also have our interests at heart.

Moving forward, we are only going to give foreign aid to those who respect us and, frankly, are our friends.  And we expect other countries to pay their fair share for the cost of their defense.  

Pay Up for Peacekeeping

The United States is committed to making the United Nations more effective and accountable.  I have said many times that the United Nations has unlimited potential.  As part of our reform effort, I have told our negotiators that the United States will not pay more than 25 percent of the U.N. peacekeeping budget.  This will encourage other countries to step up, get involved, and also share in this very large burden.

And we are working to shift more of our funding from assessed contributions to voluntary so that we can target American resources to the programs with the best record of success.

Only when each of us does our part and contributes our share can we realize the U.N.’s highest aspirations.  We must pursue peace without fear, hope without despair, and security without apology.

US President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd United Nations General Assembly: “The dreams that fill this hall today are as diverse as the people who have stood at this podium, and as varied as the countries represented right here in this body are. It really is something. It really is great, great history.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Looking around this hall where so much history has transpired, we think of the many before us who have come here to address the challenges of their nations and of their times.  And our thoughts turn to the same question that ran through all their speeches and resolutions, through every word and every hope.  It is the question of what kind of world will we leave for our children and what kind of nations they will inherit.

The dreams that fill this hall today are as diverse as the people who have stood at this podium, and as varied as the countries represented right here in this body are.  It really is something.  It really is great, great history.

There is India, a free society over a billion people, successfully lifting countless millions out of poverty and into the middle class.

There is Saudi Arabia, where King Salman and the Crown Prince are pursuing bold new reforms.

There is Israel, proudly celebrating its 70th anniversary as a thriving democracy in the Holy Land.

In Poland, a great people are standing up for their independence, their security, and their sovereignty.

Many countries are pursuing their own unique visions, building their own hopeful futures, and chasing their own wonderful dreams of destiny, of legacy, and of a home.

The whole world is richer, humanity is better, because of this beautiful constellation of nations, each very special, each very unique, and each shining brightly in its part of the world.

In each one, we see awesome promise of a people bound together by a shared past and working toward a common future.

As for Americans, we know what kind of future we want for ourselves.  We know what kind of a nation America must always be.

In America, we believe in the majesty of freedom and the dignity of the individual.  We believe in self-government and the rule of law.  And we prize the culture that sustains our liberty -– a culture built on strong families, deep faith, and fierce independence.  We celebrate our heroes, we treasure our traditions, and above all, we love our country.

Inside everyone in this great chamber today, and everyone listening all around the globe, there is the heart of a patriot that feels the same powerful love for your nation, the same intense loyalty to your homeland.

The passion that burns in the hearts of patriots and the souls of nations has inspired reform and revolution, sacrifice and selflessness, scientific breakthroughs, and magnificent works of art.

Our task is not to erase it, but to embrace it.  To build with it.  To draw on its ancient wisdom.  And to find within it the will to make our nations greater, our regions safer, and the world better.

US President Donald Trump addresses the 73rd United Nations General Assembly: “Let us choose a future of patriotism, prosperity, and pride. Let us choose peace and freedom over domination and defeat.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

To unleash this incredible potential in our people, we must defend the foundations that make it all possible.  Sovereign and independent nations are the only vehicle where freedom has ever survived, democracy has ever endured, or peace has ever prospered.  And so we must protect our sovereignty and our cherished independence above all.

When we do, we will find new avenues for cooperation unfolding before us.  We will find new passion for peacemaking rising within us.  We will find new purpose, new resolve, and new spirit flourishing all around us, and making this a more beautiful world in which to live.

So together, let us choose a future of patriotism, prosperity, and pride.  Let us choose peace and freedom over domination and defeat.  And let us come here to this place to stand for our people and their nations, forever strong, forever sovereign, forever just, and forever thankful for the grace and the goodness and the glory of God.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless the nations of the world.

Thank you very much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END                11:13 A.M. EDT

 

United Nations Ambassador Haley Asserts US Stance of ‘Sovereignty’ over “Multilateralism’

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, previewing the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week, says, “We’re not saying that multilateralism can’t work but sovereignty is above all of that.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

To hear Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, preview US priorities for the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week which gets underway Monday September 24, the United Nations is merely a stage and the rest of the world’s ministers mere players for American interests, otherwise the US doesn’t want to take part, asserting its “sovereignty.” While the UN Secretary-General António Guterres has made strengthening “multilateralism” a key objective this year (which includes addressing climate change, refugees, nuclear nonproliferation, and financing and mobilizing private investment for sustainable developing economies “without which, sustainable goals are not feasible”), in the US definition, “multilateralism” is getting other countries to do America’s bidding – whether sanctioning North Korea or Iran –  but nothing that “mandates” the United States to do what it doesn’t want to do.

“We’ve said from very beginning almost two years ago when we came in that we were going to try and see what we make out of the United Nations,” Haley said at a press “stakeout” on Thursday, September 20. Issues like the Global Migration Compact, the Paris Climate Accord, “all these things that we felt were mandating things on the US, those aren’t things we want to be involved in…We really value sovereignty. We think every country should. That’s the conversation we want.

“We’re not saying that multilateralism can’t work but sovereignty is above all of that.”

Add to that list the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted at the United Nations on July 7, 2017, with 122 states voting in favor (but with none of the nine nuclear powers, including the United States, as signatories) and opened for signature by the Secretary-General of the United Nations exactly a year ago. The nuclear weapons prohibition would become international law once 50 nations ratify the treaty. (Commemoration and promotion of the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons will take place on Wednesday, September 26, the same day as Trump chairs the Security Council meeting.)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres: “I will use my meetings and other opportunities next week to press for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order and to the United Nations.: © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The focus next week, when some 84 heads of state will be in New York, she said, “will be very much on the United States, what our role is in the world, the relationships we want to continue to build and what we can do about that. I think the goal we all have in this administration: how to make the American people proud and what actions we can show that make us proud.” (Sounds like a campaign rally for the midterms, more than taking advantage of face-to-face meetings with the heads of state to address issues of war and peace, life and death.)

“The US presidency has been one that has been full of substance, full of issues,” she said. “We are very proud of what we have done. We raised alarm bells on Venezuela, Nicaragua, how the international community must pay more attention. We held the first-ever discussion in front of the Security Council on corruption and how corruption relates to conflict. [We focused on] accountability – a good next step forward on what we’re trying to do on peacekeeping.

“We held multiple meetings on applying pressure on the crisis we hope doesn’t happen in Idlib and the humanitarian situation that can happen. And we are meeting to intensify the need for enforcement of sanctions on North Korea – reminding Security Council members we are all responsible making sure those are enforced properly.”

Last year, Trump’s big initiative in the United Nations General Assembly was about “reform” – as in getting other nations to pay what he considers their fair share, as he did at NATO. This year, the US big initiative is “a global call to action on the global drug problem. We already have 124 countries signed up and the number is growing. It shows that the world drug problem affects so many countries. The focus is on reducing use of illicit drugs, on cutting supply off, expanding treatment, and more than that, international cooperation… I look forward to more signatories.” Apparently, the US is okay with “multilaternalism” when it comes to curbing the drug problem.

There was no mention of the United States withdrawing from the Human Rights Council (ostensibly over perceived bias over Israel but likely also in protest over a report that pointed to 40% of Americans living in poverty, and perhaps to avoid condemnation over its inhumane, even criminal treatment of separating children as young as infants from their parents at the southern border), or its defiance of the International Criminal Court (to which the US has never joined). Instead of mobilizing private investment for sustainable development, the United States is focused on scoring foreign policy successes through tightening screws with sanctions and slashing foreign aid.

Donald Trump addressing the 72nd United Nations General Assembly. This year, he is expected focus on “the foreign policy successes the US has had over the past year – protecting US sovereignty – and continue to build relationships with those that share those values.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Haley said that Donald Trump’s speech to the General Assembly on Tuesday, will focus on “the foreign policy successes the US has had over the past year – protecting US sovereignty – and continue to build relationships with those that share those values.”

The America First policy – really a way of reducing issues to dollars and cents – extends to foreign aid: Haley said the United States’ “generosity” will be confined to those who do what the US wants.

“We will lay down a marker that while the US is generous, we are generous to those who share our values, who want to work with us, and not those who want to stop the US or say ‘death to America’.”

That has already been made clear in the US action to shut down aid to Palestinians– nearly $200 million – prompting members of the Security Council to raise alarms over a looming humanitarian crisis there. The action coincided with the administration shutting the Palestine Liberation Office in Washington DC.

With the US chairing the Security Council this year, Trump will chair the Security Council meeting on Wednesday. “That will be the most watched Security council meeting ever,” Haley quipped.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will take over the chair to lead a Security Council meeting on North Korea.

“The importance is the fact that every single foreign minister will be attending this Security Council meeting. It is a conversation we think needs to be had, chance for us to look at what we’ve achieved, in progress in North Korea – progress – chance to look at commitment to peace, but also to have conversation that if we don’t enforce sanctions, all this can go away.”

US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, previewing the 73rd UN General Assembly High-Level Week, says the US will also be focusing international attention on Iran – both from the point of nonproliferation, and as a destabilizing force in the Middle East © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The US will also be focusing international attention on Iran – both from the point of nonproliferation, and as a destabilizing force in the Middle East – as Haley did during a Security Council meeting that was 99% devoted to bashing Israel over settlements and “disproportionate” reaction to Palestinian protests and rocket attacks on Israel, and its plans to demolish a Bedouin village. She, instead, devoted her comments to Iran, and not on salvaging the nuclear agreement, but in trying to amass international support for renewed sanctions.

“Iran continues to be a problem – every dangerous spot, Iran seems to have their fingerprints in it. … their proxies, what they doing to destabilize the Middle East.” But she was vague in terms of whether Trump would agree to meet with Iran President Hassan Rouhani, who reportedly requested a meeting.

“Certainly if Rouhani requested a meeting, that would be for the president to decide.”

She said that Trump has scheduled bilats with South Korea, Egypt, France, Israel, Japan, and the United Kingdom but “others could come up.” She held out the possibility he might agree to meet with Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“If Erdogan requests a meeting… next week not set in stone. Certainly a head of state could request a meeting and the president would have prerogative” to accept.

The plight of the Myanmar Rohingya is also of concern, she said. “That is a hot topic now. We have to figure out how we going to bring Rohingyans back to Burma in a way it’s safe. I have expressed my view that I don’t think the government has done enough, I don’t think the military has accepted responsibility, Myanmar leader] Aung San Suu Kyi basically acknowledged the fact the reporters were right to be detained and imprisoned, is a real problem. What they’re saying, we’re not understanding and what we’re saying they are not hearing..and at some point the international community ahs to speak with one voice. It’s not okay with them just being in Bangladesh.”

Among the administration officials who will be coming to the United Nations and participating in meetings: Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary Pompeo, Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, US Trade Representative Robert Emmet Lighthizer, USAID Administrator Mark Green, and special adviser Ivanka Trump.

“This is week we all wait for, where we can really put American interests in the spotlight, make it a really prominent thing –with all the administration coming in, they will come in and do their thing. All try to get some good peace and security.”

Interestingly, there was no mention of taking up the issue of one nation’s (Russia) interference in the elections of another (United States), which is a direct attack on sovereignty.

Security Council representatives of France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (EU member countries with a seat on the Council); Belgium and Germany (incoming Council members in 2019) and Italy (a Council member until last year) who issued a joint statement urging Israeli authorities to reconsider its decision to demolish a Palestinian village © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Haley’s remarks, which preceded a Security council meeting devoted to the Middle East, were followed by  representatives of France, Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom (EU member countries with a seat on the Council); Belgium and Germany (incoming Council members in 2019) and Italy (a Council member until last year) who issued a joint statement urging Israeli authorities to reconsider its decision to demolish Khan al-Ahmar, a Palestinian village in the West Bank, which, they said not only created a humanitarian crisis but exacerbated the conflict and further eroded the possibility of a two-state solution.

They were followed by Arab State representatives, including the representative from Palestine, who expressed gratitude to the Europeans, but said that the proposed resolution censuring Israel would likely be blocked by the United States.

In contrast to Haley’s declaration of “sovereignty”, Secretary-General António Guterres, in his press conference earlier that day, said, “I will use my meetings and other opportunities next week to press for renewed commitment to a rules-based global order and to the United Nations.  The United Nations is the world’s indispensable forum for international cooperation.  The presence of 84 Heads of State and 44 Heads of Government is eloquent proof of the confidence of the international community in the United Nations.”

Asked whether the Secretary General considers Trump “a threat to multilateralism,” he replied, “First, I don’t like to personalize things.  I think we are facing a situation in which, in different areas and for different reasons, the trust of people in their political establishments, the trust of states among each other, the trust of many people in international organizations has been eroded and that multilateralism has been in the fire.  And so, this is a concern, and that is the reason I said today and I will say it again in the General Assembly, that it’s essential to preserve multilateralism.”

The question that wasn’t asked of Ambassador Haley or Secretary General António Guterres was this: if the US were not (temporarily at least) the largest economy in the world and the UN’s biggest donor (temporarily at least), would the various UN councils and committees prosecute or seek sanctions for: unleashing climate catastrophes by reversing course of spewing heat-trapping gas emissions at five times the proportion of population (the US has 5% of the world’s population but accounts for 25% of carbon emissions)? For unleashing economy-crippling tariffs on countries in defiance of existing treaties in the absence of a true “national security” issue, while bestowing $12 billion in subsidies to farmers, in violation of World Trade Organization rules? For violating the Global Compact on Migration by shutting down virtually all access to refugees and asylum seekers? For violating human rights of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America by taking away children as young as infants and incarcerating parents and children for an indeterminate time without hearing, and deporting parents leaving children orphans in custody in the US?

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Foreign Policy Experts Nance, Stavridis Warn of Global, Domestic Threats to Democracy as Authoritarians Rise

Malcolm Nance (left), a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridi (right)s who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, engage in a dialogue on foreign policy moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

A dialogue between Malcolm Nance, a renowned counter terrorism and intelligence consultant for the US government’s Special Operations, Homeland Security and Intelligence Operations, and 4-star Admiral James Stavridis who was the 16th Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy and Secretary of Defense, moderated by Errol Louis, a political anchor at NY1 News, took place at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island on March 18, 2018. It proved to be a seminar on foreign policy, with some tough words for the need to defend democracy against a tide of anti-democratic, authoritarian forces both domestic and foreign. “We have to solve this –at the ballot box.” 

Here are highlights from the provocative discussion:

Errol Louis: Moderator: Both of you were at the Pentagon on 9/11; Nance was even an eyewitness. With the rise of terrorism, how safe are we? 

Malcolm Nance: Since 9/11, we went for a short while in the correct direction in counterterrorism, bringing the world together to confront global threat. Unfortunately the invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke the mechanisms in Mideast that were functioning – poorly, but indigenous – strongman dictators. Once we invaded, we unleashed demons we could not foresee. The ebb and flow of regional solutions all went out the window.

Before, the hardest problem was people trying to solve Palestinian problem. That’s nothing compared to radical Islam. You can negotiate with Palestinians, even Hamas, groups in Iran.

We have a bigger problem: just keeping the democratic norms in the world, not just US. Democracy as an ideology is now under attack, every day.

Admiral James Stavridis: I agree. Go back 100 years – 1918. The world is coming out of World War I, Spanish influenza pandemic sweeping, 40% of world’s population were infected, 20% of those will die. US walking away from Europe, isolating ourselves, rejects the League of Nations, erects enormous tariff barriers – cracked the global economy. You can drop a line from that to the rise of fascism and World War II. That is a dark global picture.

We have mechanisms to deal with many of the challenges but agree [with Nance] that the whole ideology of democracy is wrapped up in great power politics, the rise of two authoritarian figures- Putin [just “re-elected” to a fourth term]. President Xi Jinping isn’t even putting on faux election, he declared himself the new emperor. These authoritarian systems are a challenge to democracies in ways we haven’t dealt with in 100 years.

We have two other concerns: a new pandemic – don’t spend much time thinking – but every 100-200 years of human history, a pandemic rises, despite fact of enormous advances in medicine. We are due for one – ability to manipulate genome can allow dark dark work. [Consider how Trump has cut funding to the CDC, and would likely not step in to stop a new outbreak of Ebola or Zika outside the US.]

Our vulnerability is in cyber. We are utterly dependent on massive cyber systems. We are at great risk – that’s where the two strains – cyber vulnerability and way authoritarian regimes will come after us – those streams are crossing – we have work to do, tools,

So, how safe are we? We have challenges, but I am cautiously optimistic. The question is whether our democracy will put in the right people.

Louis: Pointing to [Trump’s] new direction in foreign policy [and the fact that the State Department is considering removing ‘human rights’ from its mission statement], why is it to our advantage to fight for democracy and human rights and why is this not a form of international charity? 

Nance: NATO, after World War II [was devised] to stop wars by creating a grand alliance – to spread that ideology around the world., not just American democracy, but allow others to develop their own form of republic, democratic governorship, whether a constitutional monarchy or a republic like France. That is under attack. Democracy is in retreat. ‘Democracy’ has been removed from mission statement of the State Department.

When we were struck on 9/11, it hurt me deeply – I spent my life in worst parts of world getting back. Now, that threat is from within – people in our country do not believe in democracy; autocracy, as being pushed by [Putin] former director of KGB, is better alternative to liberal democracy and European parliamentary democracy-Iit’s all under attack.

It is not a charity – America doesn’t do this as charity. We invented globalism – in WWII –we literally dropped it out of airplanes; people wanted our products at the end of war. Now people believe our system of economy is fundamentally wrong, NATO should be disbanded, the European Union should go away and every country in Europe should be its own autocracy with Moscow as polar center. There are people in US government who believe that.

Admiral Stavridis: “Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value.” © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Stavridis: Why does democracy work? It’s not simply the value system. There’s a pragmatic element. With democracy, people [who are disaffected, aggrieved] get to change government peacefully – a safety value. That’s why we worry about authoritarianism –eventually [discontentment] will blow, and when that happens [authoritarian regimes] will go in search of monsters abroad, look for scapegoats, combat operations. We ought to be very concerned about authoritarianism.

What do we do about it? What’s our move? A couple of different things can do – continue to rely on a system of alliances – that’s why we should worry about tariff barriers, and walking away from NATO, that take global structures apart. We need to rely on those. We need to get vastly better at strategic communications, explaining our ideas. War of ideas? It’s a marketplace of ideas. We have to compete – democracy, liberty, freedom of speech, education, assembly, racial and gender equality – we execute them imperfectly but they are the right ideas. We have to communicate that in ways that get beyond ‘We have the right answer.’ Lay it out pragmatically: why it works. Because there are forces pushing against it.

Louis: Trump’s statements about NATO alarmed people, [yet] US deployed troops to Poland as part of NATO task force exercises. Is his rhetoric worse than reality?   

Stavridis: Candidate Trump said NATO was obsolete and he would consider pulling out altogether. Fortunately, on this subject, he [appears to have] listened to General Mattis, the Defense Secretary; General McMaster, National Security Adviser [so far], Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (oops). But on NATO, I am cautiously optimist he has gotten the message that NATO really works.

Nance: NATO is 28 nations, 52% of world’s GDP, 3 million troops under arms, 24,000 combat aircraft, 800 warships, 50 early warning aircraft – it is the richest, most powerful alliance in human history. US spends $600 billion/year on defense, the Europeans $300 billion. To put that into perspective, Russians spend $80 billion, Chinese $150 billion. We outspend in part because of our European allies – they should spend 2%, and are on track to do so in next 3-5 years. The alliance remains fundamental to US – it is pragmatic value for US to be in alliance.

Where did this idea come into Trump’s head that NATO wasn’t a good value, that US was connected to countries not paying their fair share? In November 2013, Trump went to Russia for the Miss Universe pageant and while he was there, he was brought to a private 2 hour meeting arranged by Aras Agalarov, [a billionaire Russian real estate mogul with ties to Putin] who funded the pageant, in a restaurant owned by Galaroff. [Trump] came out of that meeting spouting the Kremlin party line – anti-NATO, anti-globalization, anti European Union, anti treaties and alliances, believing that Russia is the premiere superpower. The only thing we don’t know is whether he believed it or whether some inducement got him to believe – he said it during campaign. Now he seems to have some change of view. NATO [which Admiral Stavridis once commanded] unilaterally evoked Article 5 after [the US was attacked on] 9/11 – for 10 years they gave their blood and treasure to defense of this nation. This is the single greatest force for good since world War II. Russia wants to do away with NATO – they call us Atlanticist, globalist – their philosopher Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin [who holds fascist views] convinced Steve Bannon, almost the Goebels of the anti-democratic movement, goes around the world, trains, help foster other countries to believe the Atlantic alliance is the problem in the eastern and western hemisphere.

Stavridis: Why NATO matters: 1) The values we share. We will never see another pool of partners who have these values. It is no coincidence because [the Founding Fathers] got them from Europe, from the Enlightenment. 2) The geographic position of Europe matters – why we need those Cold War bases in Europe – those are forward operating stations in the global war on terror 3) It’s the economy and trade between US and the NATO countries.

Also, when I commanded 150,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the nation that lost the most on a per capita basis was Estonia. Number 2 was the Netherlands. The US was number 3. They were with us in that fight because we had been attacked on 9/11. This is an alliance that stands and delivers for us. (applause)

Louis: What does [Trump’s] firing of [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson mean in the broader sense. Is it deliberate, a competence question, a larger crisis, an administration not executing?

Stavridis: When Secretary Tillerson got the job, I thought it was a good choice –a  global businessman, contacts all over the world, quiet, laconic, very serious Texan, tough minded. I thought it an interesting choice, it might turn out well. But Tillerson simply was not a very effective Secretary of State. He couldn’t gain real connectivity in the White House – in a state of constant chaos. How can you be Secretary of State for a president who one minute, says, ‘We will solve Korea with fire and fury like never seen – a preemptive declaration of war –and three months later, be ready to go and cut ‘the deal of the century’ – a defensible policy choices but not for same person. So to be Secretary of State trying to articulating that –the work of Sisyphus, boulder rolling down. As a result, morale in the State Department cratered, applications for foreign service are down 50% in the last 2 years. You don’t get that back –you  lose a generation if you can’t fill those slots, let alone, not filling crucial ambassadorships [including South Korea]. This is as bleak a moment for American diplomacy. A chaotic inexperienced White House that sadly doesn’t seem to be getting better in 14 months (feels like 14 yrs).

Malcolm Nance: “Trump thinks diplomacy is a big stick. His way of negotiating is threatening..A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.”
Nance: It appears diplomacy has shifted over to war fighters. Trump thinks diplomacy is not speaking, thinks diplomacy is a big stick, and if everyone sees us as a big stick nation, there will be no communications. The acting Secretary of State is technically Ivanka Trump –Trump is using Ivanka and Jared as an alternate State Department because Trump doesn’t know what the state department is, what diplomacy is. His way of negotiating is threatening –he sees no value in the institution or maintaining. [He is defunding the State Department, institutes]. But the institutes (nongovernmental) are there to help foster democracy and republicanism within countries. They brought about change in countries that would otherwise become a dictatorship – gone. A generation [of diplomats] is gone. Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams –our first 3 ambassadors – must be spinning in their graves.

Louis: Will the opening of US embassy in Jerusalem bring about a cataclysm?

Nance:  It could happen. What’s happening in Mideast – so much change, dynamics. You can even see in how the Israeli-Palestinian problem is pushed off – rise of Iran, Syria, Turks invading northern Syria and setting up against the entirety of Kurds (who we fund), Yemen. Palestine-Israel conflict is the ‘good ol days.’. When the deed is done, and US embassy is moved, Saudis may give head tilt to that. I don’t know if there will be another intifada – the strings were cut after the Iraq invasion.

Stavridis: These kinds of conflicts – religious with a geopolitical overlay – are very dug in, and go on and on. The really bad news is that in middle is our greatest friend and ally in the region, Israel.

What should we do? Four things: stand with Israel – (applause)- the reasons are pragmatic, values, all the same things that make us want to be in NATO, should energize our alliance with Israel – 2) Need to work closely with Sunnis (Saudi Arabia, Gulf States, Egypt, Jordan). The Saudis are giving head nod on the peace plan, drawing closer to Israel, willing to exchange information, intelligence, missile defense, early warning. Why? because both are concerned about Iran (which is Shi’a). We ought to understand the Iranian self-view: we think of them as mid-size power, they think of themselves as inheritors of the Persian Empire which 2000 years ago, dominated the region. That’s what they want to reconstruct. Working with Israel, alliances, better in cyber, insuring missile defense strong, stand with Israel.

Louis: How to address the humanitarian disaster in Syria, knowing Russia is smack in the middle?

Nance: We had the opportunity to crack this nut in 2012 after Assad’s chemical attack. I advocated then to destroy the Syrian air force utterly – that’s the strategic advantage Syria has over the allies. Then you have put Israel in powerful position; limits Iranian involvement (because they won’t have a runway to land), and gives opportunity to show Arab States here is a chance to use ground forces to do humanitarian intervention. Arab League, Egyptians, Jordanians, Saudis have enough forces to be in Damascus in 72 hours out of northern Jordan. But so long as Russia backed and Syria can resist, won’t do it.

Stavridis: We last saw a problem like Syria in the Balkans, 20 years ago: Yugoslavia blew up – forced migrations, 100,000s killed – like Mideast – Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Serbians and Muslim Bosnians – a religious war with geopolitical overtones that was ultimately solved by partition. Yugoslavia was  broken apart and created sub-states. That was imperfect but at the end of the day, that is what will happen in Syria – it is broken now, and won’t go back- that’s 3-5 years away.

Why is Iran in Syria? Iran wants a land bridge so it can move missiles and fighters from Tehran to Lebanon because that endangers Israel. That’s why we need to move to international solution that somewhat marginalizes Iranian influence – can do with leverage over Russia – the White House needs to get tough on Russia. 

Louis: China. The notion they now have a president for life there, with no mechanism to change leadership – if there are internal problems, if there is a falling out within society or economy or ideology in a bad place, what happens?

Stavridis: The good news is that China will continue to grow at 5%. If they do, the population will stay relatively quiescent. But China’s road gets rough in out years- demographics – an aging population, the imbalance between men and women created by the One-Child policy which led to killing baby girls. We’ve never seen a society as ill balanced. Plus, China’s environment is disaster, requiring billions if not trillions to remediate. The housing market is overheated (reminiscent of 2008 in US). With no democracy, there is no way to relieve the pressure. Xi will have smooth run for awhile, but it gets rough in 5-10 years. That’s when we should worry about Chinese foreign policy that is nationalistic, seeks to find a scapegoat outside, and look for conflict in South China Sea. (See the movie, “The Last Emperor,” about Puyi and read Robert Kaplan’s, Asia’s Cauldron”.)

Errol Louis: What is Putin’s end game? © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Louis: What is Putin’s end game?

Nance: Putin has imperial goals – Atlantic Alliance between Washington and European states has since WWII brought economic, cultural influences Russia cannot stand – They believe it has marginalized Russia’s limited economic power.  All the good that has come from NATO, the EU single market, the US flow of traffic across Atlantic does no benefit to Moscow. Putin realizes that 75% of Russians live in the European part (75% of land in Asia). He believes Russia should be the pole in which Europe should do trade – EurAsianism. He is ruling more like Czar Nicolas I – religious orthodoxy, nationalism, autocracy (while France was creating fraternity, liberty, equality). Russia is buying every conservative, neoNazi group in Europe – owned, lock stock and barrel by Moscow.

Last march, for the second time in American history, France saved democracy – had Marine Le Pen won, France would have withdrawn from NATO,broken up the European Union and aligned France with Moscow, bringing along everyone to Moscow.

Stavridis: Putin’s end game: H will be the dominant force in Russia until the day he dies, and Russians accept it. This is Russian custom, history, culture.  Read literature- Dostevsky, Pushkin – how Russians look at powerful male leaders. Sometimes they get a Peter the Great, the next time Ivan the Terrible; sometimes get Stalin, but then get a Gorbachev – they are willing to roll the dice. But the dice have landed on Putin, he will not give up power. We have to deal with this operative. I met Putin a couple of times. Bush Jr. met Putin and was completely taken –he said, ‘I looked into his eyes and saw his soul. We can work with Putin.’ McCain, a true war hero, met with Putin  and said, ‘I saw 3 letters: K-G-B.’ I think McCain got that one right – and that’s what we will deal with.”

Q&A

Is climate change a national security issue?

Stavridis: Climate change is a significant national security threat. Because of global warming, ice is melting in the Arctic, opening up shipping lanes and hydrocarbons, creating a great power competition – on one side is Russia, on the other side US, Canada, Iceland, Norway – they are all NATO; 2) Rising sea levels gradually affect our ports, our ability to operate in major naval bases and ports 3) Global warming will impact our ability to operate globally because of cost – we will have to mediate against environmental concerns, which will put downward pressure on defense budgets 4) What should worry us most is that as oceans heat up, photosynthesis is diminished affecting oxygen in the atmosphere. Vice President Gore called the Amazon the lungs of the earth; Nope, 70% of oxygen comes from photosynthesis in oceans, and we are abusing them. These are major national security concerns.

What if in the next few months Trump abrogates the Iran Nuclear Treaty?

Stavridis: I expect Trump to abrogate the Iran Nuclear Treaty. 1) That will have chilling effect on negotiations with North Korea – they are unlikely to enter into grand bargain having just witnessed the abrogation of the Iran treaty. 2) Iranians will almost immediately restart their nuclear program – they are probably in primed position to do so. 3) The treaty is not perfect but ending it will put Israel at greater risk because of re-energization of the Iranian nuclear program 4) Allies will be furious, it will put enormous strains on the NATO alliance, and probably not lead to European allies walking away, so US will become even more of an outlier. I wasn’t a fan initially – it isn’t a good/bad deal, it is a done deal, the best we could have at this point.

Nance: I spoke with a senior briefer at CIA who briefed Obama on the details that convinced Obama to sign the Iran Nuclear Treaty: The way the agency assessed, Iran was 6-12 months away from developing an atomic bomb, but with the treaty, Iran gave up all components, 90% of its enriched nuclear material and was pushed back 15 years We do not want a war with Iran. Why would we put ourselves in a position to give Iran the ability to have a nuclear weapon? There is no limit to the mischief that would create. And if [unleashed], Iran would go straight to North Korea with $ millions to buy a nuclear weapon.

Malcolm Nance, Errol Louis, Admiral James Stavridis and Rabbi Stephen S. Widom who hosts the Cultural Arts events at Temple Emanuel of Great Neck, Long Island © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

How to solve the humanitarian disaster that is Syria?

Stavridis: A combination of defense, diplomacy, development – hard and soft power. [This was shown to work in Colombia, after a 60-year insurgency that destroyed the fabric of the country; and the Balkans.] You don’t have to choose hard or soft  power. So often, the long game is combination of all those tools – development, diplomacy and defense when need it – to get balance right, requires leadership. We are very good at launching missiles. We need to get better at launching ideas. We can do both. (Applause)

Nance: That’s smart power. We are a global force for good but have to be global force for diplomacy.

Considering the hollowing out of our diplomatic forces to the benefit of Putin, [possible collusion] in cyberwarfare, why is there reluctance to use the word ‘treason’ in regard to Trump?

Nance: There is a legal definition – Article 3 – to ‘treason.’ You literally have to be at declared war with an enemy and give aid and comfort to enemy. That is rarely invoked – we have sent people to prison for espionage, divulging secrets but the last time anyone was tried for treason was the Rosenbergs. I don’t think that word applies legally – from what we’ve seen.  Where the president violated his oath of office,  you can use ‘treason’ rhetorically if you feel betrayed, or ‘treachery’. I don’t think will be able to use ‘treason’ in legal sense . this investigation started as national counter intel – a spy hunt – still a hunt for citizens in direct communications with foreign intel officers.

What check is there on this president who many think is a madman, is the military prepared to step in and save democracy? 

Stavridis: ‘I solemnly swear to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic – no expiration. The military isn’t going to step in and solve this. We have to solve this –at the ballot box. In 1840, Alexis de Toqueville wrote about this strange new phenomenon of democracy. He was largely laudatory, but the punch line: ‘the tragedy of democracy is that in the end you elect the government you deserve.’ We need to own this problem. No one will solve it for us. We need to get out in November, and again two years later, and we can solve this problem.

Nance: We have entered the greatest period of political activism – I believe it will even eclipse the Vietnam era – 1968. But since World War II, we have gotten fat and lazy and enjoy fruits of democracy.

We have guardrails – you have 246 days to solve part of this problem – but to do that you have to bring yourself and everyone who has not voted in last election.

The military is not designed for coup d’etat. We would really be a third world banana republic. But we can stop stupid – unlawful orders.

Emperor Xi. China building pipelines through Africa into the Stans, helping China, become #1 in world, developing 5G. How will that affect us?

Stavridis: China historically has not had global ambition, but 16 months ago, President Xi gave a “coming out speech” at Davos for China in the 21st century: One belt, one road philosophy – using economic power to further the interests of China. China just built its first overseas military base, at the Horn of Africa. China is on the move. When historians 300 years from how write about the 21st century, how that story comes out will be US and China and the rise of India. We need to be mindful of China, align with India, hold close our global allies, help develop this hemisphere to the south of US. That ought to be our strategy. And China should be top of the list to watch.

Nance: If this administration would understand strategy: China is brilliant. Go to sub-Saharan Africa –that used to be the land of the Land Rover, then Toyota, now you see Chinese Long March and Running Deer pick ups – they are $2000-$5000 but are everywhere. China is colonizing the sub-Sahara economically– buying whole sub-sections of countries to ship food to China. If China develops 5G cell telephone networks before the US gets it into Manhattan, China can export worldwide and own global communications. China is building wind plants, is now the world’s largest producer of solar panels (an industry we used to own). Without a strategy, where you think about where we are, where we will go and put together government resources to get there, we are dead in water. And that requires diplomats.

To what do you attribute Iran’s vitriolic hatred for Israel?

Nance:  Iranians love America –they are held down by an authoritarian regime using Islamic fundamentalism which the bottom 20% believe, not the people who used to run the country or could be, not the youth who all want what all in the Mideast want – a 2018 Toyota Corolla – they want trade, to be involved with world. Hatred for Israel is a schtick.  They don’t really care – they care about religion, family and to be left alone to do what they want. If they see a threat to Al Aksa mosque, they will respond. Palestinians smartest arabs in mide, most educated – everywhere but Palestine – if I were them, would work out public-private partnership to rebuild Palestine as moderate state, so don’t get Islamic cultism of ISIS. If that happens, will be zombie scene, walk into guns. Hopefully Saudi Arabia will focus away from ‘Death to Israel.’

What is impact of Erdogan of Turkey turning his back on western values toward Islamic fundamentalism?

Stavridis: President Erdogan, an authoritarian, is consolidating power rapidly, the most accelerated of all the authoritarian leaders in having taken his nation from functioning secular democracy to one man rule in 5 years. Extraordinary. The bad news is that Turkey is vital to Europe, to US. We need a stable western-looking Turkey – now drifting out of our orbit. We should pay attention, show respect, send high level missions, but behind closed doors, convince Erdogan the trajectory he is on will isolate his nation,. He will never have cozy relationship with Russia or Iran – that won’t work for Turkey. Turkey understands that at a fundamental level. We need to work with Europeans to exert pull on Turkey also. Turkey is more than a bridge (between Asia and Europe), it is a center of power – its population will exceed Russia’s. Turkey is on the move. We need to keep them in our orbit.

The intel community wanted the $120 million appropriated by Congress to fend off cyberattacks on our electoral system. Homeland security issued an alert that Russians already in our computers that run powerplants, and now could turn off electricity. What do we do about that?

Stavridis: We need to reveal more about what we know, to underpin the argument for retaliation –so we can be more aggressive in how we retaliate. We need better private-public cooperation. Government can’t solve this by itself – all our electric grids are intertwined. We have got to get government agencies working together on cyber – agriculture, interior – nobody is focused on cybersecurity.

Considering the rise of authoritarians, what happens If in the next 3 months, Trump fires Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, and a new one fires Mueller. Will Trump be impeached? 

Nance: Trump won’t be impeached before November. But we have guardrails. John Dean said that the day after Nixon fired Watergate investigators, the rest were still at work, he just fired the leadership. If Trump fires [Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein] (and [Special Counsel Robert] Muller), he would have sealed his doom about obstruction of justice and the investigation will continue

Stavridis: I believe Congress, including enough Republicans, would respond – not impeach, but there would be a [Constitutional] crisis and the guardrails would kick in.

In the present nuclear environment, is the doctrine of mutually assured destruction still relevant?

Stavridis: Yes.

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© 2018 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin